Review: Roots (Church Hill Theatre, Edinburgh)

The company, famed for its stylised projection and whimsical fun, presents a new show as part of the Edinburgh International Festival

© Gaelle Beri

1927 has always had a knack for whimsical wonder, blending animation, storytelling, live music and a wickedly blasé sense of humour in a way few companies do. Overseen by Suzanne Andrade and Paul Barritt, the group smashed onto the scene at the Edinburgh Fringe over a decade ago, and since then have been carefully cultivating a consistent following and shining reputation.

This new show, which had its world premiere in the USA in May and now comes to the International Festival, sees many of the troupe's qualities as present as ever. A 70-minute set of different short tales (varying from roughly two to ten minutes in length) is delivered by a cast of four, multi-rolling and musically riffing along throughout.

For the most part the tales are freshly satirical, poking fun at misogyny, greed, austerity, love and more – imagine a more oddball take on The Bloody Chamber. There's the well-endowed but d*ckish king who can't trust his new wife, two parents who are greedy enough to consider infanticide for the sake of more food, or the cat with a very capacious gullet.

The episodic structure gives the company the chance to dabble in different animation styles – colour palettes wildly vary: '50s monochrome Westerns lounge next to plushly oversaturated fairytales, while star-crossed ants, clad in Warhol-esque turtlenecks, have melancholic romances. Lillian Henley's music is the unsung hero here – a panoply of eclectic instruments – prayer boxes, skulls, saws – are used to give each sequence a unique flavour. It results in a whole lot of light fun with a darkly comic undertone. The quick skits mean nothing ever really has a chance to get too heavy or revelatory – like a perfectly satisfying selection of creative canapés.

You get the sense of a company trying to push their own boundaries, finding new ways to animate, incorporating more live-action projections. A nice start, but perhaps not going as radical as it could be – still a heartening sense for some intriguing things to come.

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