Home » Reviews » The Animals and Children Took to the Streets, National Theatre

The Animals and Children Took to the Streets, National Theatre

Written and Directed by Suzanne Andrade
Presented by 1927

Pros: Finest use of projection I have ever seen and great ensemble work.

Cons: Some adult viewers might be fooled into thinking this is a kids’ show.

Our Verdict: This is brilliant stuff from a very talented company.

Courtesy of The National Theatre

If 1927‘s The Animals and Children Took to the Streets sounds familiar, it is probably because you have come across it before. Indeed it is returning from its recent international tour for a second stay at the National Theatre. The reviews, both from the press and friends who had seen it before, were glowing so I must admit I was very excited. Did it live up to my expectations? Well, it was certainly unlike anything I could have expected. The Animals and Children Took to the Streets was co-commissioned by the BAC which was no surprise to me after seeing the show. The BAC are very good at this sort of thing i.e. creating shows which are family friendly but which adults will also relish.  At its core, this is a kids’ show with simplistic, humorous characters, lots of slapstick and a pretty simple plot. However, on a second level there are nods to the adult audience with references that children are not likely to understand. There are quite a few rude jokes and one-liners which would fly over the heads of younger viewers but which will certainly keep the parents grinning throughout. This is not an easy feat but 1927 get pretty close to hitting the perfect balance.

One of the main unique selling points of this show is the use of projection to create the setting for almost every scene in the play. This is not projection that you are likely to have seen before. In fact, I would probably go so far as to say that this is the finest use of projection I have ever seen on stage. The three flats which occupy the stage become illuminated not with static scenes but moving, complex environments. The synchronisation between the projected set, props and the actors themselves is pretty much impeccable and the attention to detail is sublime. Some might say that, after a while, the projection becomes distracting or gimmicky – perhaps arguing that there is an over-reliance on projected imagery during the show. Maybe they have a point but no one can doubt the artistry which has gone into the creation and realisation of the projection. This is top notch stuff from 1927.

However, projections alone are not enough to support this show and this is where the cast come in: this show presents a whole host of varied and colourful characters who need to be razor-sharp in their timing in order to use the projected props. The timing also needs to be spot on in order to interact with each other and provide musical accompaniment. This large ensemble makes it look effortless with their honed performances. In fact, it was something of a shock when, at the curtain call, the “large ensemble” which I had expected turned out to be composed of no more than three actors. In my head, I had no choice but to go back and try to figure out how on earth so few people could have played so many roles: this is when I realised the true talent of 1927. What a performance! 
All in all, The Animals and Children Took to the Streets is one of those rare cases when you can say you were totally taken by surprise. Part kids’ show, part adult in-joke, it melds seamless projection with high-quality performance. Great stuff from a company we will certainly be keeping our eye on.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

The Animals and Children Took to the Streets runs at The National Theatre until 10th January 2013.
Box Office: 020 7452 3000 or book online at http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/the-animals-and-children-took-to-the-streets-0?dates

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