The Animals and Children Took to the Streets! plays at Lyric Hammersmith with 1927 theatre company. Hatty Uwanogho reviews this macabre, innovative piece:

The Animals and Children Took to the Streets! is a melancholic, darkly comic show by innovative theatre company 1927. The audience is drawn immediately and deeply into the world of the grotty Bayou Mansions and its morose inhabitants. Yet the only set is three blank screens.

Paul Barritt‘s stunningly drawn animations and projections create the depressing landscape of the Bayou, and they absolutely steal every scene. Technically perfect, they don’t miss a beat of the dissonant music, but remain creatively clever and funny and quite beautiful. From the cockroaches climbing the walls of the mansion, to the clouds of bug spray that move from one screen onto the next as the caretaker tries to eradicate another infestation, the visual details are effective down to the very last fly.

Animals Children Lyric Hammersmith

Lillian Henley‘s music brings to mind Kurt Weill. Staccato delivery, mostly sung in clipped tones, recalls this era too, though other references are from another time altogether. The deadpan caretaker (Rowena Lennon) exists only as a disembodied  voice, but through him are hopes of one day leaving the Bayou, despite hearing that those who are ‘born in the Bayou, die in the Bayou too’. Scenes of the caretaker lying in bed are cleverly drawn, in the middle of a dream from an aerial view. Magically, as he wakes up and removes his glasses, they somehow do not fall to the ground.

Animals Children Lyric Hammersmith

The children of the title are anonymous, faceless shadow creatures as if out of a David McKee story, who come out at night and terrify the neighbourhood.  Newcomers Agnes Eaves (Genevieve Dunne) and her animated daughter Evie arrive at the tenement building to tame the children with a few collage sessions.

But it might be that these children are beyond her help.

It seems that the Mayor has a few, rather more sinister solutions up his sleeve. The audience may quickly regret tasting the sweets handed out before the start of the show by the ‘Performer Usherettes’.

The Animals and Children Took to the Streets! has dark humour, and some beautifully drawn film animations. However the mournful atmosphere of the piece leaves an unsettling feeling, one that encourages you to discard your hope and dreams when in a wicked city like the Bayou.

Macabre and sad, 1927 adds live music and performance to recorded film animation and gets a brilliant result. The fusion of visual and live performance is integral to the show; its ingenuity conjures up gasps and laughs in equal measure. Add in Henley’s music, Felicity Sparks’ piano playing and the talented acting by the three performers, and The Animals and Children Took to the Streets! is the most unique seventy minutes.

★★★☆☆

The Animals and Children Took to the Streets! plays at the Lyric Hammersmith until 16 March 2019. For more information or to book tickets, please visit the venue website.