Review – The Animals and Children Took to the Streets, National Theatre

Monday 2 January 2012

New Year resolutions are meant to be broken aren’t they?

The Whingers emerged from The Animals and Children Took to the Streets resolving never go to the theatre with preconceptions or expectations again. Mmm, how long do you think that’s going to last?

To say we weren’t expecting much is a mild understatement. But then Phil had no expectations anyway. He ran into someone he knew on the way to the theatre who asked what he was going to see. “No idea” he replied breezily.

Perhaps that’s the way to approach theatre so it can’t hurt you. But on paper 1927 theatre company‘s TAaCTttS doesn’t sound that enticing. A show in the Cottesloe auditorium set in an urban dystopia which with remarkable prescience anticipated the summer riots in this country (it was first performed at the Sydney Opera House in October 2010)?

If we tried to describe the plot you’d just think we’d been on the sauce. Agnes Eaves (Esme Appleton) and her animated (in the sense that she’s a projected cartoon) daughter Evie arrive at a stinking run down tenement block Bayou Mansions in a frighteningly run down part of a city. The place is awash with peeping-toms and other dubious characters but can the new residents change the lives of the unfortunates who exist here?

This bizarre and unsettlingly dark tale is performed by three women Suzanne Andrade (who also writes and directs), Appleton and Lillian Henley (who wrote and plays the music) in front of three screens upon which some remarkable animation (Paul Barritt) forms a huge part of the show.

The Whingers find their 'look' for 2012

We say perform, much of their “performance” is striking poses and extraordinarily timed interaction with projected material and speaking or singing the often witty script in a dangerously close to monotonous deadpan delivery. It shouldn’t work but it does.

Trust us on this one, out of context “Children need a bit of encouragement… and collage” may not sound laugh-out-loud hilarious but it is, and there are some very pleasing rhymes: “kitchen sink” with “Maeterlinck” took our particular fancy.

It’s all very strange and twisted – think Shockheaded Peter (but better) or Jan Švankmajer or if you’re old enough Crystal Tipps and Alistair fermented in expressionist cinema.

We managed to catch this on the New Year’s Eve matinee just before it finishes on January 3rd. But it tours the UK and abroad next and no doubt will return. The final sell is it’s only 70 minutes long and forced the Whingers to celebrate afterwards with a glass or two of wine, all of which wrapped up the Whingers’ 2011 most agreeably.

Quite remarkable.

Rating

3 Responses to “Review – The Animals and Children Took to the Streets, National Theatre”

  1. WestEndFringer Says:

    I saw this just before Christmas. I really enjoyed it (loved the ending) but would probably go with 4/5.


  2. […] Calcifer and Stephen Fry as the house); and while projections can create a magical atmosphere (as 1927 Theatre Company proves), too often they’re a excuse for doing a show on the cheap instead of using […]

  3. RJA Says:

    My trip to see this was the theatre highlight of the year. The show was cancelled and we were given free wine.


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