Folk tales are a fascinating, timeless and valuable form of cultural currency, once passed around by firelight and now echoing through art, music, and literature. A selection of these stories, plucked from the British Library, sit at the heart of Roots, the latest work from the 1927 company. Playful, technically outstanding and thematically intriguing, the multimedia performance proves to be a striking exploration of the storytelling tradition.
A consistently interesting and entertaining slice of theatre.
Under the direction of Suzanne Andrade, playing out with the animated Paul Barritt background, a story about a particularly fat cat, an unlucky man, some pretty awful parents, a King with a benighted attitude towards women, and many more morally dubious tales are told. Backed by the narration of friends and family of the company, and accompanied by a fluid array of enthralling instrumental arrangements expertly played by David Insua-Cao and Francesca Simmons, the stories are brought to life with empathy and no small amount of humour.
Standouts include the first story about a very hungry cat, and a man beset by the presence of a hilariously right-on and Y-front wearing representation of poverty, but all of the dozen or so stories are told with aplomb. Barritt’s animation forms a hallucinatory and consistently engaging backdrop upon which the action of the tales takes place, and across the stage little is fixed. Instruments, wigs and outfits change among the performers, and the interplay of musicians, actors and ever shifting setting makes for a consistently interesting and entertaining slice of theatre.
By the end of Roots the final tale brings the work back round to the thematically loaded title of the show. A story about a couple of ungrateful kids and the ties that bind families together provides a neat and suitably grotesque conclusion to the evening. Folktales have long tied together communities, and presented with the flair and creativity which 1927 has brought to their selection of stories, Roots is an exceptional exploration of these key components of our shared cultural imagination.