"The children of the revolution"
by Mathew Strowbridge for remotegoat on 10/12/10

It was not quite the animals and children but the students who were taking to the streets of the city. 'Fund our future' read the scrawled slogans on their banners, on the evening that 1927's new show hit London. I chose the art, and left Westminster for Battersea.

I'm a pussy for a protest but, despite the title, The Animals and Children Took to the Streets is no tie-in to any new student demonstration. As a company, 1927 combine vaudeville-style theatre with film and animation and The Animals - only their second full production - continues this animus, tapping eagerly into inter-war Berlinisch vaudeville and Deutscher Expressionismus.

As a result the show is particularly stylised; its three cast members taking to the stage in shocking white make-up - the full Brechtian treatment. They brandish an air that falls somewhere between a Tim Burton fantasy and Thursday nights at the Wien-München.

The Animals takes us to a scene at the Bayou Mansions, a tower block on Red Herring Street, somewhere in the East of a nondescript city. As goes the warning, 'Those born in the Bayou, die in the Bayou.' And, it's true that the neighbourhood is full of peculiar characters, each looking as though a patch at the local cemetery might already have been marked for their arrival.

A caretaker mopes about the corridors of the building, reduced to spraying cockroach poison, recording whimsical observations in his journal. The daughter of the owner of the ground-floor junk-shop starts a movement of juvenile tear-ups; they dress like anarcho-sundicalists and they only come out at night. Three nosey ladies - a Manichean reverse to Chomet's Triplets of Belleville - croon a commentary on just how pathetic the depths of their society actually are. 'It's those pesky kids,' they seem to be telling us, ignoring the effects that their own pachydermatous behaviour must be having on the local community.

Into this stumbles genteel Agnes Eaves with her daughter, the mute delight that is Edie. It is Agnes' mission to deliver the neighbourhood's children from their lives of inscience and indignity. And she does so for no other reason than that, like Vianne Rocher in Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, she is a kindly and generous lady.

Unsurprisingly, Agnes' testees turn against her in a riot and the effects on the Bayou are played out within a plot that is a heavy-handed satire of insidious social engineering on a destitute ghetto community. It is a children's tale; not offensive but majestically dismal like a Roald Dahl sketch.

The Animals is nothing if not a spectacle. It is a live performance but the majority of the show consists of grubby animations beamed from a projector whilst the cast move fluidly about and between the footage.

It is a striking piece of choreography, although not quite as intricately physical as the work Complicite produce. It is also not as theatrical but it doesn't try to be. The spectacle is still there, the ideas still charming and the surrealism still present, plucked as if by the fingers of Leonora Carrington.

It is ambitious, but it is carries it off. And the crowd will be listening to the animals and the children for longer than they listen to the protests down Whitehall.

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