Review – The Animals and Children Took to the Streets – 1927 at Battersea Arts Centre

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Based on my experience watching 1927’s last outing (Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea), I wasn’t in too huge of a rush to get tickets for their latest show at the Battersea Arts Center – some animation, some acting, some people wearing vintage clothes, yawn – so I waited and waited and put it off long after The Animals and Children Took to the Streets was announced but was finally enticed by a friend of mine saying she wanted to go, and, gosh, there the BAC is just up the road from her and she’s leaving soon and I want to spend time with her and … oops, the show sold out.

This leads us to last night, when R and I were sitting in the lobby of the Battersea Arts Center about an hour and a half before showtime. Any chance of getting returns under normal circumstances was rather hamstrung by the complete brokenness of the BAC phones during the day, so being first on the list was our only hope. I was hungry – the onsite caf was only serving nachos and mac ‘n cheese – and the third member of our party, Miss Booglysticks, had finally gone from waffling (“Do I really want to go just on a hope”) to taking a cab (ouch!). BUT as I sat in a nearby kebab shop waiting for my lamb cubes to cook through, good fortune struck and three seats very magically became ours (and needed to be paid for in cash rather quickly). We (and our hot drinks) were in!

Now, for a show that is both sold out and ending in four days – wait, three – I wouldn’t normally bother doing a write-up, but because I’d gone to the earlier show, I actually really want to talk about how things have changed between this production and the last. In short – and I find this a bit difficult to say given my reputation as a surly curmudgeon who only goes to shows so she can complain about never getting her money’s worth – I found with this show that 1927 has lived up to the potential they showed two years ago. The quirky joy of Paul Barritt’s animation is now more seamlessly fused with the live acting – at times it seemed to be handling all of the lighting duties on stage, though I know it was added to at times – and the live actors also found themselves buried within the crazy collage of his work. The potential of animation to let you do the impossible – like have an actor have their head come off and be tossed around like a football, to create an elevator that goes up and up, to make a space an actor can run through block after block – was revelled in.

But there was more. First, this had a far more coherent through-story – a bizarre tale of a semi-fictional reality based in a tenement (the Bayou, though it kept sounding like the Bio) where the children have gone completely feral, much like the cockroaches. Second, the songs and music were both catchy and eerie – I remember thinking the music wasn’t fully formed before, but the singing, the lyrics, and the instrumentation (including a güiro played as if it were nails being filed) for Animals and Children worked together perfectly to accent the story and the characters. Finally, despite being forced to interact with the animation (i.e. slapping “flies” as they went past, lobbing an animated rock at a window), the actors made it all feel as effortless as any other cue they might have effected requiring standing or moving in coordination with another person or action on stage. This did not feel like a case of the performers serving the animation – 1927 really has the entire package operating as a whole now.

Most importantly to me, the performers created big, fun characters that were a treat to watch – strange curtain twitching ladies wearing leopard spotted house robes; a Robert Smith-like caretaker with dreams of escape; a sneaky, sleazy “lady” spiv and her pre-teen Stalinist daughter; a helpful young woman and her (animated only) daughter; ticket girls and bureaucrats and ice cream men. All of this was done by only three people? I am shocked. And, to top it off, the backgrounds for the scenes were done in a lovely Russian/Rodchenko style/homage that unified the show and cranked it up one more notch on the artistry thermometer. It was just really damned good.

All that, only £16, I got to take my hot chocolate in with me, and it all wrapped up by about 9 PM. To be honest, when I came out I was so excited I forgot to check my watch and was instead babbling on about the show. So go get in line, people, you’re going to be sorry you missed this one if you don’t have tickets – as near as I can tell from their website, the BAC show is the end of the line for the tour.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Wednesday, January 5th, 2011. The final performance will be Saturday, January 8th. I’d say book now but it’s a little late!)

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2 Responses to “Review – The Animals and Children Took to the Streets – 1927 at Battersea Arts Centre”

  1. Gareth James Says:

    Glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Mini-review – Golem – 1927 at Young Vic Theater | Life in the Cheap Seats - Webcowgirl's London theatre reviews Says:

    […] usually affordable pricing structure of the Young Vic (my ticket was £19.50) and the fact their previous show had been one of my favorites of 2011. Four years … that’s a long time for a show to […]

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