This is a piece of theatre about a less frequented district of a huge city and about the urban anonymity and inequality leading to loneliness. I am in Hammersmith’s Lyrics and after several parties and lunches on their excellent roof terrace above the high street I’m finally in the actual theatre. Having wanted to see this play since I saw it advertised in Brighton last year I happily embraced this tour stop closer to home. The inside of the Lyric Theatre is not what I expected: Having climbed up the stairs many times I knew both the restaurant and the foyer. The design, interior and direction signs are slick and modern, I step within this very cubic concrete building in a classic theatre with red seats, balconies, golden features and white plastering ornaments.
After taking my seat in the front row I am handed a bag of sweets, labelled Granny Gumdrops. The sweet seller in her leoprint uniform smiles somehow menacing so I do not dare open the package straight away. I will find out about its story later.
We are in the bayou, the least glamorous part of a big unnamed metropolis: Here children are perceived by the general public as more annoying than the omnipresent cockroaches crawling up every wall. The local Mary Poppins has run out of spirit to continue a well-meant collaging craft club for disadvantaged minors after her flat has been ruined by underage hooligans. These young pirates are being led by the daughter of a dodgy second-hand shop owner, following an “out with the old, in with the new” mantra – her only way to escape the corruption in the bayou. With radicalised children misbehaving in all public spaces, the city’s major finds a quick solution: Highly addicting, absinth coloured Ritalin-style pills, sugar-coated handed out to every minor – drugs that educe lethargy, fill the youngster-prisons quickly and calm down the neighbourhoods. When the only prim and proper girl in the whole of the bayou gets arrested and locked up as well it takes an unexpected hero to save her innocent polkadot freedom.
Expect a piano on stage, animated and real performers being chased by enormous newsletter headlines in mock-Cyrillic fonts and uncountable references to the expressionist cinema of the 1920s, crossed with urban hauntology and projected stage art at its best – this is brilliant and bonkers!
Later in the Q&A I learn that no stage light has been used and that the illumination is by projections only. I also learn that the production company 1927 is named after the year the first talkie came out. Talking of talking: The use of voiceover tonight is experimental and perfectly synched.
Then the conversation turns to how audiences everywhere are seeing their very own city in The Animals and Children took to the Streets! and only now I recall working just around the corner during the London riots in 2010 and was sent home early as the situation became so unpredictable that all public buildings in the area were shut down. I wonder how the Lyrics Theatre experienced these days.
First played in 2010 in Sydney this play is still touring the world with its third cast – totally worth keeping an eye out.
Written and directed by Suzanne Andrade, created by 1927.
Music by Lilian Henley.
The Animals and Children took to the Streets! will continue its international tour this year with trips to China and Japan being planned.
***** out of 5 stars
I paid £15 for my ticket in the front row.