Posts Tagged ‘1927’

Mini-review – Golem – 1927 at Young Vic Theater

January 14, 2015

Although it opened in December, I still very much wanted to go see 1927’s new show, Golem, especially given the 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 stay with you. Think about it. So, despite the warnings from Stewart Pringle (I didn’t read the review but I saw the stars, or lack thereof), I went to see Golem, hoping a difference in personal tastes would lead to an enjoyable night. And hey, it was cheap and promised to be only 90 minutes long, so surely it couldn’t be such a bad evening (despite my epic jet lag).

Golem was in no ways a retelling of the golem tales of yore, other than that it has a golem in it – no Prague setting, no spell casting, no Jewish themes, no parallels with Frankenstein. But when you get an animated human creature who does your servant, you nearly automatically get the opportunity for requests to go a bit haywire (i.e “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”), and narratively the possibility of the creature somehow acquiring free will is a powerful path to go down. For this story, however, the creature doesn’t seem to develop its own sense of will so much as have it taken over by someone else. It’s all done as a sort of morality tale about consumerism, twined around a deliberately quirky tale of a family of two nerdy kids (they have an anarchist punk band together that never actually performs due to their anxiety issues) and their grandmother, whose lives are invaded and eventually taken over by this strange, evolving, semi-subordinate creature.

As ever, this show was done with live people and animated back and foregrounds – a truly original style that almost comes off as a sort of living claymation, this time with more of a St Pepper’s/Monty Pythno feel rather than the Soviet Expressionism of their last show. But I’m beginning to think that the lack of possibility of spontaneity reduces the input of the human elements too much for my tastes – they are practically performing a live movie, not a play, with all of the dialogue recorded (unless I’m seriously mistaken – the music did seem to be performed live but I don’t think all of it was). The effects created by this format is really beautiful, but at some point it has to move beyond trickery and visuals and actually become an engaging story; but somehow for Golem this did not happen and I found myself, 40 minutes in, feeling uncomfortable in my chair and wondering just how this show could redeem itself. The point that was being deliverered – the social satire – wasn’t really subtle, and, well, I was bored. And for a ninety minute show to become boring … well, that’s quite an indictment.

As I walked out, I heard the excited witterings of all of the other people who’d had an enjoyable evening (obviously not including the woman sat in front of me who’d limboed backwards out of her back of stall seat and made a run for it 10 minutes before the end). Maybe, like Punchdrunk, this is the kind of thing where initial novelty can really provide a tidal wave of enthusiasm, but, in the end, content wins out over form, and this show just didn’t cut the mustard. Ah well, I’ll still go back at least another two times to see what comes next.

(This review is for a performance that took place on January 13th, 2015. It continues until January 31st. There is a really nice preview of this show on the Telegraph‘s website which I’m going to read because I do still consider myself a 1927 fan even if I didn’t care for this show.)

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Good deal – 1927’s Animals and Children at the National for £18

December 13, 2012

One of my very favorite shows of 2011 was 1927’s The Animals and Children Took to the Street, a hallucinatory combination of animation, live action, cabaret music, and Rodchenko-style graphics, operating seamlessly in the service of a Gorey-esque story of wild children fighting to take back their city from the government. Sound all a bit of pre-Riot fun? It’s back at the National this winter and I highly urge you to see it, especially since there are affordable tickets available courtesy of the Metro – either enter promo code METRO18 into the order form online at the National’s website or call them (0207 452 3000) and quote “Metro18.”

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

January 6, 2011

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!)

Review – Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea – 1927 at the Battersea Arts Centre

December 12, 2008

Between Masque of the Red Death and The Human Computer, I’ve been pretty pleased with the offerings of the Battersea Arts Centre, so I had no hesitations about going ahead and booking for “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” despite having no further information about it than what little was on the website: “Using the aesthetic of silent film, a series of comic vignettes unfold in which the actresses interact seamlessly with antiquated animation accompanied by a charming, often eerie, piano score …” Well, okay, why not! I love silent movies and this sounded like it was just up my alley … and it was right down the street from my flat … perfect for a Saturday.

By the time the show rolled around I’d pretty much forgotten everything I read about it. We walked up the main staircase of the BAC and then into the space used for Masque’s cabaret and sat down in some benches facing a thrust stage. To the left, a blonde woman with a whitened face played piano; in the aisle, a woman sold program “and for three pounds, you can have one with sweeties.” These included a gingerbread man and some peppermint sticks, and seemed like a good deal, though I felt like I would have been better served by buying some wine in the bar downstairs to keep me company during the show.

The evening started properly when The Bee’s Knees, a female dance duo I’d last spotted at Miss Behave’s Naughty Nightie, doing their 20s Charleston gig. This, however, became even more fun when they returned and did a set in which the projected movies from the stage helped them perform costume changes and even a memorable head switch – truly not the kind of thing I’d ever seen done on stage before! I don’t think they’re particularly amazing dancers, but they were fun to watch and a good choice to get us in the right mood for the evening.

After this, 1927 got into their actual performance. It was described as ten short works. These are the titles of the works: 9 Deaths of Choo Choo the Cat, Manderley, The Lodger, Sinking Suburbia, The Buscuiy Tin Revolution, My Old Aunt, The Grandmother, The Misadventures of Frau Helga Von Schnetterline, The Devil’s Boot’s Creek. The general idea was that one or two of the young lassies that compose 1927 (one a blonde, but not the pianist; the other a brunette with a bob; both with white faces – there are other members but only the pianist appeared – the projectionist/animator stayed in the booth) would interact on stage with the projections being showed. This could be as simple as staying put while lines were drawn around them (or something more complex was shown, i.e. blowing out smoke rings from a cigarette); it could mean that their dresses were used as a projection screen. Choo Choo the cat was a great introduction to the whole style as the animation allowed all sorts of silly things to happen to the girl playing Choo Choo that couldn’t have been done at all with traditional stage play, and it all was fairly comic and fun. There was also a narrative bit of animation or two.

My favorite bits were the ones with two sort of evil/demented sisters a la Edward Gorey. They were looking for someone to play with, and the movie showed what had happened to their other friends/toys. They reappeared again in the show and did a little audience interaction bit that I’ll leave a secret so as not to ruin the surprise.

Overall this was a fun evening though quick as it ended at 8:45. It wasn’t particularly intellectually challenging but for those who like silent movies or Gorey-esque humor I would recommend it.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Saturday, December 6th, 2008.)