The Animals and Children Took to the Streets


Written by Alison Potter
07 Monday 07th January 2013

A dark and twisted fairy tale, it portrays the crime-ridden, bug-infested shantytown of the Bayou Mansions on Red Herring Street. It’s an overpopulated dystopian hell-hole where the inhabitants live in fear of the resident children, who roam the streets in packs like feral animals. Life in the tenement block is dryly observed by the building’s caretaker – a man patiently counting down the minutes until he can afford a one-way ticket out of there – but his plans for freedom are complicated following the arrival of altruist Agnes Eaves and her little daughter Evie Eaves. They take up residence as part of a mission to help the abandoned and misguided children of Red Herring Street, just as the social conflict finally reaches boiling point.

Seamlessly blending live action and projected animation across three screens, writer, director and star Suzanne Andrade, along with animator Paul Barritt, has managed to create an extraordinary fictional world which is also a disturbing and incredibly timely parable. Esme Appleton plays Agnes and she is joined on stage by Andrade (as the caretaker) and also musician Lillian Henley. All the other characters – including Evie – are computer-generated.

The curious interplay between the animated world and real-life actors clearly required a great deal of skill and very careful orchestration to synchronise the original live music, performance and storytelling with the film and animation. The company describe the production as “almost like a giant graphic novel” but that doesn’t do the 70-minute show complete justice. Acerbically witty and scintillating, it evokes the world of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, while its prominent black humour, macabre story and surreal tale also invite comparisons with the work of Tim Burton and David Lynch.

But they aren’t the only cinematic similarities, as the emphatic body language and facial expressions of the actors is a knowing wink to the silent films of the 1920s. The lively onstage piano accompaniment is homage to the archetypal silent film score, and the genre has clearly been a rich source of inspiration for both Andrade and Henley. The high-energy song and dance numbers allude to the company’s cabaret origins, most notably the Berlin cabaret tradition, which was known for its similar use of political satire and gallows humour.

While the social commentary of an underclass of children taking to the streets to stand up against the autocratic patriarchy appears to be a retelling of the 2011 London looting riots, remarkably the show actually premiered at the Sydney Opera House a year earlier in 2010. It’s a timely and grimly prophetic precursor of the social disruption and anger of disenfranchised youth, foreshadowing the inner city paranoia and rage which would come to characterise the summer riots.

Widely acclaimed, it’s clear why the National Theatre were so keen for 1927 to bring The Animals and the Children Took to the Streets to the South Bank. Great things have been predicted for the wonderful and tiny team, who will soon be gearing up to work with a new cast that will take the show on tour internationally, before they knuckle down to develop a new production for 2014. While it will be exciting to see what they come up with next, it’s imperative that everyone takes to the streets immediately to catch the original cast at the Lyttelton Theatre: you honestly won’t regret it.

The current run of The Animals and the Children Took to the Streets continues until Jan 10. For more info about future tours, visit

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