Review: The Animals and Children Took To The Streets!

IN BRIEF 1927’s unique fusion of stagecraft, film and graphic animation produces a gleefully twisted storytelling which is a delight to the eye

Having seen 1927’s five-starred (by me) massive hit GOLEM at the Young Vic in 2016 (televised in the UK on BBC4 in November 2018), I leapt at the chance to see this, one of their earlier shows now embarking upon a global tour (after a four-year global tour of GOLEM).

I suppose it was natural to find that THE ANIMALS AND CHILDREN TOOK TO THE STREETS! did not quite live up to GOLEM’s virtuosity, but this is more down to the storyline than anything else.  However, this is still an enchanting piece of theatre by a unique company whose work has been described as a graphic novel shocked into life.

On the outskirts of a prosperous city sits a squalid run-down apartment block, watched over by a depressive caretaker. The city is plagued by uncontrolled (and uncontrollable) children running amok, causing mayhem, disruption and anxiety. Determined to help, mild and well-meaning Agnes Eaves and her little daughter Evie move in to offer the kiddies some art classes, all pasta shapes and PVA glue, and pretty much as we feared, their efforts are soundly trashed by the little monsters. Finally, the Mayor acts with a heavy hand. Unfortunately, little Evie is caught up in the sweep and disappears. Will anyone save Evie and reunite her with Agnes?

The fact that show consists of three actors interacting with three flat panels onto which are projected various images seems at first very limiting, but this company’s imagination and technical skill still retains the power to make you smile in wonder. It is always great to hear an audience give a little gasp of surprise as the images reveal themselves, and there are one or two moments in this show where you can experience that sensation. The fusion of live action, graphic animation, filmic imagery (and downright weirdness) is underscored by a plinky-plonky piano accompaniment which is at once quaint and quite pleasantly unhinged. Moments of great humour are infused with the company’s trademark edginess. Crucially, the split-second interaction of the performers with their projected surroundings is impressive.

The idea that children can become a societal problem is an interesting one, however not as effective (to me) as the theme of GOLEM (modern technology taking over our lives and minds), but still worthwhile. As a critique that superficial methods are not enough to stem the deep dysfunctionalities within societies, it has a bite, but it is somewhat submerged in the general storytelling. The show, at 70 minutes, is just the right length before the onset of projection fatigue. You will feel that it is long enough, but a very diverting and entertaining 70 minutes it is. See it if you can.

P.S. Will you get a “Granny’s Gumdrop” from the leopard-skinned attendants?

THE ANIMALS AND CHILDREN TOOK TO THE STREETS! runs at the Lyric Hammersmith, London until March 16th and then tours internationally. Lyric tickets here

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