Year of the Rat

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Script of Year of the Rat

Year of the Rat is a play by Roy Smiles. It presents a (fictional) encounter between author George Orwell, his future wife Sonia Brownell, and his friend Cyril Connolly. The action takes place in 1948, in a remote cottage on the island of Jura in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, where Orwell, in poor health, has sequestered himself to finish writing Nineteen Eighty-Four.

In addition to the three human characters, the play includes three anthropomorphic animals who are figments of Orwell's imagination. They are Boxer (the horse from Animal Farm), a Stalinesque pig, and a congenial rat. The play's directions suggest the animals all be played by the same actor.[1]


Year of the Rat had its UK premiere at West Yorkshire Playhouse on March 7, 2008.[1] The original cast and crew were:[1]

  • George Orwell: Hugo Speer
  • Sonia Brownell: Claudia Elmhurst
  • Cyril Connolly: Nicholas Blane
  • Boxer / Pig / Rat: Paul Kemp

  • Director: Alan Strachan
  • Designer: Michael Pavelka
  • Lighting: Jason Taylor
  • Sound: Mic Pool
  • Movement: Lucinda Hind
  • Assistant Director: Kathryn Ind

Playing the three animals, Paul Kemp was assisted by designer Michael Pavelka to "change his posture, facial features, and of course clothing" between characters.[2]


Writing in The Telegraph, critic Charles Spencer found Year of the Rat "mildly entertaining, but Orwell deserves better than this strained comedy".[3] Spencer felt that Smiles should have dug deeper into Orwell's character, and examined what drove the Etonian scholar to embrace the idea of social justice so fervently.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Year of the Rat script. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
  2. Year of the Rat on the website of Michael Pavelka. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
  3. "Year of the Rat: A wasted opportunity to get to the heart of George Orwell" on The Telegraph website. Dated March 14, 2008. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
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