It’s rare that I return to see the same show more than once unless it is a West End musical and only to please some family member in town. Rarely am I so enthralled that I will quite happily sit through another darkened hour in the name of theatre, especially at the Edinburgh Festival. When it comes to 1927’s The Animals and Children Took to the Streets, a part-projected, part-animation, French-inspired Gothic musical-esque experience, a show I first saw at Latitude Festival, I leapt at the chance of seeing it all over again. Did it stand up to a second viewing? Did it ever.
Having already been on tour and racked up a series of five star reviews, 1927’s latest production is now being featured as part of The British Council Edinburgh Showcase, and it is perfectly placed for international promotion, having already achieved an excellent tour in Australia. The Animals and Children Took to the Streets is quite a timely piece given the recent unrest that swept much of the UK. In the apocalyptic and septic existence that makes up the Bayou Mansions, a rebellion uprising of children is taking to the streets, whilst a hopeful Agnes Eaves attempts to use crate paper and collage to ease the storm. What follows is a story thick with Gothic influence and projected beauty that stakes 1927 as a company which is changing the way we look at animation and theatre. It is, quite frankly, a masterpiece.
The key to 1927’s piece is the way that Paul Barritt’s animations are integrated with the three ensemble members. The level of precision and visual imagination put into the animations make The Animals and Children Took to the Streetslike nothing you have ever seen before. The ensemble seamlessly moves and interacts with the projected animations, which are beautifully crafted to show anything from a group of children running amok, to a caretaker sweeping endless dust that billows into the air. The visuals are captivating, and when coupled with the exceptional storytelling, musical accompaniment and harmonious singing, there is a distinct feeling that the audience are watching something far more than just a finely crafted piece of theatre: it is an experience enriching every sense of the body – a treat for eye and ear.
My one slight criticism of the piece upon second viewing is the pace; the production seems to drift by at the same constant level. It never seems to propel itself into the chaos of the storyline, instead opting for a more linear pace. If there is one thing that could make this production even better, it would be to let go of the restraints and allow the production to soar, which can quite easily take place within the current framework. Putting this aside, it is a remarkable achievement for a company still developing its craft, and is a fine testament to the collaborative support they have received during the making of the production.
It’s hard to really pinpoint what it is about the production beside the visuals that makes it so arresting. It’s a feat of storytelling, both creative and imaginative, whilst still showing parallels to the world outside the theatre. It is quite clear that 1927 takes its work very seriously when it comes to the creation and delivery of performance. They work seamlessly with each other and the projections to make this macabre tale both entertaining and heartfelt.
The Animals and Children Took to the Streets seems perfectly placed with both the Edinburgh Festival and as a company being showcased by the British Council. If its work continues in this vain, we might just be witnessing the start of a new innovative theatre troupe to rival the likes of Complicite. Whatever you do, follow this company and make it your life’s ambition to see one of their productions.