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Review: The Animals and Children Took To The Streets (Lyric Hammersmith)

1927's hit projection-filled show returns for another run

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The Animals and Children Took To The Streets
© Alex Brenner

An unnamed suburban city is the setting for theatre company 1927's returning hit show The Animals and Children Took To The Streets, which uses projection wizardry to create a world where generations are at war and everything is amiss.

The play first premiered at Battersea Arts Centre in 2010, pre-empting, to some extent, the London riots in the summer of 2011, and has since toured across the world.

Set in the Bayou Mansions tenement block, the piece sees a vast horde of children running amok, chasing residents, smashing up ice cream vans and just generally being as unruly as possible. Into the mix step two protagonists – the kindhearted Agnes Eaves, ready to make a difference through pasta shapes and PVA glue, and the morose mute Caretaker, just trying to buy his ticket out of the cockroach-ridden block.

It's all weird, whimsical stuff tinged with darkness – like if Amélie director Jean Pierre-Jeunet had tried to tackle Sin City with some Russian formalism thrown in for good measure. For a show aimed at the over-tens crowd there's gory, eye-widening details, with casual references to "sh*tholes" and a moment where Agnes has one of her internal organs spontaneously ripped out. Metaphor or not, the blood splatters feel very real.

The real star here is Paul Barritt's projected backdrop – a nonstop work of art that brings the Bayou to life. Small insects crawl across the frame, characters come to life and monsters crawl out of the darkness on the sparse set with few props (also created by Barritt).

The cast of three, composed of Genevieve Dunne, Rowena Lennon and Felicity Sparks, is supernaturally quick at jumping between roles while also performing most of the piece's music live on stage, creating the variety of quirky characters each with their own specific gaits and costumes. The oddball citizens of the Bayou certainly leave an impression.

It's a unique, genre-defying piece that has come back for a very good reason and while projection technology has certainly made leaps and bounds over the last decade, this show never feels all that dated. Well worth a trip.