Directed and written by Suzanne Andrade with film, design and animation by Paul Barritt, The Animals and Children Took to the Street arrives at The Old Market theatre in Brighton. Magnificently grotesque and charming, it is a performance and experience to remember.
Magnificently grotesque and charming, it is a performance and experience to remember.
The play casts its eye onto a slum tenement block called the Bayou mansions in a forgotten corner of a grand metropolis. No matter where you live, there are always areas that suffer from poverty that the general populace mainly tries to ignore and avoid. The mayor and the middle classes will have nothing to do with Red Herring street, but Red Herring street has everything to do with them. We follow the lives of a down-and-out caretaker, a young revolutionary and a well-to-do mum called Agnes Eaves who wants to make a difference by helping the children in the Bayou.
When watching performances as a reviewer, I sometimes find myself trying to come up with whatever fancy term might apply to a play. Who it is influenced by and what the style and aesthetic is. Well, The Animals firmly put me in my place by effortlessly combining dozens of elements and influences in ways that will dazzle and baffle you. It somehow exists in the space between a silent film and a living graphic novel. It even has a bit of pantomime thrown in.
You may think that with so many elements and influences on stage that it becomes a mess. Well, The Animals executes its aesthetic with such brilliance that you quickly become enraptured in its vicious world and dark humour. It oozes charm from the live piano to the pale faced characters that stomp, creep and drudge across the stage. The satire on everything from train prices to liberal attitudes on poverty as relevant and cutting as it was when the play debuted back in 2010. However, you likely won’t be on the edge of your seat waiting for the climax, but you will very much enjoy the ride. The overall plot of the play seems more of a vehicle for continuing satire and humour, but this honestly isn’t much a problem. The narratives of each character collide and the depressing reality of the Bayou and a life in poverty simply re-asserts itself. The cycle continues and the message of the play lands. Born in the Bayou; die in the Bayou.
Special mention must be given to the gorgeous constructivist animations that flow around the characters. Instead of serving as a backdrop, the animated world is part of the performance with fully animated characters, props and effects merging with the action on stage to transform what could be quite a contained and stationary performance into a sprawling and dynamic show. It is a three person show that feels busy and bursting with activity.
The Animals is an idea and aesthetic executed with flair and expertise. This 70-minute show is depressing, amusing, dystopian, tragic and farcical all at once. It is a night well spent.