“The rich get richer and live on milk and honey, while the poor get poorer. We want what you have.”
Cries of the 2011 riots, social deprivation, inequality and ghettoisation are at the core of The Animals and Children took the streets. Yet, 1927
have created a charming, clever and mischievous performance that pokes fun at the audience whilst playfully experimenting with form.
And it’s funny. It’s sharp, a dark comedy that successfully draws on adult humour – Agnes Eaves who aspire to changing lives by creating an art club; Wayne the racist and his racist offspring who run riot, the Caretaker, upon eating a Kit-kat, congratulates himself that, “all in all, today was a pretty good day.”
1927’s keen eye and excellent attention to detail highlight the frustrating bureaucracy of modern day living; the 10 hour wait in A&E for an exploding kidney, only to be given a plaster and advised to take a paracetamol, the helplines that promise advise but instead play synchronised versions of Greensleaves for hours on end and never help and the absurdity of having to buy a train ticket 14 days in advance or having to pay £777.77p for a single journey on the day of travel.
Perhaps what is most interesting, is 1927’s determination to cross disciplines and play with performance mode; animation meets live performance meets cabaret meets pantomime meets clowning meets poetry….Traces of Brechtian Verfremdungseffekt were clear here. Devises which prevented the audience in being passively swept away by story and character but instead, in drawing attention to form and creating a more conscious and critical observer; a large pen, suitcase and book are depicted through cardboard props with the words clearly branded across them. Throughout the performance, 1927 shift the mood and genre from a gothic type of fairytale, rooted in a storytelling tradition, to seductively reminding us of their attempt to imitate reality in their highly skilled ‘pretending.’ They often return to the ‘alienation’ of the audience but do so stylistically – and in keeping with the tone of the piece.
Yet, strangely I did miss the prominence of the actor’s body on stage. Largely, individual actors stuck to their side of the stage and their projected animation. To me, the absence of the performers’ touching, interacting and utilising the stage space fully made the performance more disparate, which brings us back to the age-old debate concerning mediatisation and the difficulty in bringing screens and bodies together without one dominating the other. Yet, perhaps what I’m pining for doesn’t need to be there – and what makes their work innovative. Certainly, the absence of touch and interaction alerts me to the fact that I’m watching a performance and highlights their artistic choices regarding form, mode and parallels with Brecht.
What intrigued me is how they created the work and what came first as the performers’ response to the animation was seamless, but supposedly impossible to do before the animation was created. In coming across an interview in IdeasTap
, animator Paul Barritt states that “we worked backwards, which we’ll never do again – we didn’t have a story until a month ago, and you just can’t work like that. Combining live performance and animation is also quite a rigorous thing because it is so time-consuming to make and get right. In the future, we’ll sit down and work out our story well in advance – devising has added a lot of extra work.” Although devising may have added extra work for 1927, their performance holds up, in my opinion, because of the delicate balance which they created in crossing disciplines and born from a devising process. The animation was prominent in the work, but the performers, the poetry and pertinence of the piece fought their corner extremely well.
Overall, the audience left the theatre amused, charmed by the animation and 1927’s clever choices but disturbed in equal measure, mulling over 1927’s departing words;
“Born in the Bayou; die in the Bayou.
We prefer it this way, too.”
The Animals and Children took the streets is on at The Old Market Theatre until the 9th of March. Catch it whilst you can.