Music: Lillian Henley
Writer/Director: Suzanne Andrade
Reviewer: Sam Lowe
“Granny’s Gum Drop?” a mysterious woman asks walking around the auditorium handing out sweets to the audience. People are compelled to take them, even if they don’t end up eating them. This is no innocent gesture in kind as the sweets are for a political purpose. The performers tonight are: Felicity Sparks, Genevieve Dunne, and Rowena Lennon.
1927 Productions have devised another, inimitable, Intermedial performance – where the live and recorded blur into one. They imaginatively play with the possibilities of amalgamating live mime-like performance, with music, storytelling, and French animation by Paul Barritt. It never feels detached or fragmented; it synchronises impeccably.
We are transported to Bayou, a part of the city feared and detested by the rest of the population. The infamous Bayou Mansions are here: an apartment block full of people you’d rather not meet. We have to be cautious of the wolf… always at the door. Plus, avoid the dodgy Junk Shop too. Agnes Eaves and her daughter, Evie Eaves arrive late one night. Will things change? They meet The Caretaker (voiced by James Addie), a lonely man who is trying to get together enough money to leave this godforsaken hell hole. The performance cross-examines poverty, money, media rhetoric and influence, rioting, and protesting.
Henley’s music is alluring. They aren’t complete songs, just snippets of ideas which help to convey the narrative. Nevertheless, it effectively completes the sombre and peculiar feel of the performance. Some of the music sounds magical in its monophonic texturing, like something from the Harry Potter film franchise.
The stylistic hand-drawn animation is utterly exquisite, capturing the pain and suffering of the city. At times, like in the dream sequences, the animation becomes kaleidoscopic and psychedelic. It has the power to entrap you; you willingly suspend your disbelief. There are many creative ways the actors interact with the animation – to reveal it here would spoil it.
What 1927 Production do so well is their ability to magically conjure up a world which looks so different from our own, yet it’s still relevant to society. A theatrical world that is solemn, tragic, beautiful, innocent, dangerous, and strange – possessing a film-like quality. It’s because of this you can connect with the characters vividly, in particular The Caretaker. His dry sense of humour evokes infectious laughter. One minute it’s funny; the next serious. His story of loneliness and isolation is severely heart-breaking. There is a moment when that painful realisation just hits you.
A performance like this has real potential to attract film-goers and people who engage with other types of media. You’re watching theatre but it’s like you’re sat in the cinema as well. You’re witnessing an important story that raises awareness of society turning a blind eye to the suffering and oppression around them.
Runs until 16 February 2019 | Image: Contributed