The Animals And Children Took To The Streets

Tue 8th – Sat 12th November 2011

reviews

Jessica Reid

at 00:16 on 9th Nov 2011

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“Out with the old and in with the new”, they chanted – and indeed that could be symbolic of this fabulous show. 1927, the theatre company, have established a new type of theatre. With its multimedia visuals, multi-perspective storytelling and an amalgamation of genres and styles, ‘The Animals and Children Took to the Streets’ was an enthralling production.

The play opened with starry skies over an appealing city, projected onto three screens. It looked like a page from a children’s story book. As a piano began to play a simple, childlike tune, an atmosphere emerged in the auditorium – it was fizzing with excitement. Then a female narrator began a voiceover which epitomised both Radio 4 and sex. The tale had begun. Arguably the show’s success lies in its clashes: between old and new, between tragic and funny, between innocence and evil. The singing was beautiful in an old fashioned, harmonised way (like The Pipettes) but the lyrics and the visual projections were incongruous and thus hilarious. The plot and its characters were positively shocking yet the twists and witty observations had me in hysterics. They were clever and undeniably this whole show is smart. I was always anticipating another surprise and my expectations were consistently fulfilled.

The projections were beautiful films filled with puppetry and cartoons. They wittily toyed with depth and the audiences’ imaginations. Frequently, an actor would begin an action and it would be embellished in a projection – such as the caretaker sweeping and the projection showing a puff of dust. It was amazingly innovative but it looked so simple. The narrations were brilliant because the characters were so bold. Their speeches were completely individualistic. The actors had alabaster faces and they were very aware of their physicalities, engaging in sharp movements and wearing vivid coloured costumes. Their actions and their words were scathing, funny and bitter. They were the product of the underworld they were stuck in but they all relied on their cynicism, hoping to elevate themselves above it. They were all exceptionally weird. It would have been sad if it wasn’t so amusing.

There were elements of extreme sordidness. 1927, the theatre company, challenged taboos again and again – child gangs, government corruption, prostitution, poverty…I am a little unsure about what the production was aiming for. Did it intend to satirise society and if so, for what purpose – political and social change? Or was it just telling a story for the sake of storytelling? Either way, I was intrigued.

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Chelsey Stuyt

at 09:32 on 9th Nov 2011

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Incredible. This is a show that I'd see again in a heart beat. From the first moment to the last, it held me still in its madcap little children's fingers and refused to me let go.

Suzanne Andrade's script is darkly clever and full of a spitting, caustic humour that had the audience laughing out loud the whole way through. Each line was iced with an unexpected twist that gave a feeling of a dance on three legs - jarring, definitely not caring about things like “grace”, but capers on with a wild cackle of glee that makes you feel like you've run off with the circus of all your childhood nightmares. It is the story of Agnes Eaves and her daughter, Evey Eaves who believe that all the children of the Bayou require is some love, affection, and collage. Or is it? It is also the story of Zelda and the pirates, a Marxist revolutionary and her horde of child-shaped revolutionaries who demand more than a life condemned to be lived out in the Bayou. It is also the story of a mayor and his Minister of quick fixes and their “Granny's Gumdrops”, a sweetie, more addictive than crystal meth, that can knock out a rhino – or the children of the Bayou. But it is also the story of a man known only as “the Caretaker”, a man so colourless and expressionless that he doesn't even open his mouth to speak his lines but who could arguably be the hero of this whole thing.

The set is simple yet endlessly creative and effective. It consists of three simple white screens, upon which Paul Barritt's mad animated visions are splashed. The effect is akin to being unsettled by a Dave McKean artwork only to have it spring to life and mock you for your surprise. The Caretaker's dream was a particularly beautiful sequence which required so little from the actor - a mere turning of the head - but which wrested so much of its power from the art. The same was true of the fight scene. Oh yes, there was a fight scene. Caretaker versus the ninja shadow nannies. How can you lose?

The actors/musicians were obviously equally fantastic. White-faced and incessantly deadpan, they made every moment work in a way that was both funny and cutting. There was a point where I almost forgot that the actors were not objects of the screen, but were real people. They blended seamlessly with their environments - heavy praise considering the raw madness on display behind them.

But it was the music that held this little voodoo doll together. Every song included a high pitched wailing voice accompanied by an old speakeasy style piano riff. That whiff of liquor and cigar smoke permeated every note and managed to pull you deeper into this world of raging children and drug-doping mayors. A world where the children will pop off their limbs in a game of one-upsmanship. The rollicking piano - played to perfection by Lillian Henley - really was the key. It kept the madness spinning so fast that the audience wasn't left with a moment to question their sanity. All they could do was hold on and enjoy.

The show cavorts along at a mad clip (its all over in 70 minutes) and takes us into a Bayou that we can never quite get out of. As the residents of this world tell us, “when you're born in the bayou, you die in the bayou”, and they're only too happy to have us leave. The cast's final farewell of “Goodnight, and good riddance” is perfectly fitting, but I for one will be back.

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