When U.K. theatre company 1927 brought their debut hit Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea to Australia two years ago, they were the new kids redefining the block.
When U.K. theatre company 1927 brought their debut hit Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea to Australia two years ago, they were the new kids redefining the block. With their seamless integration of animation and performance, the show stunned audiences at the Edinburgh festival and a seemingly endless tour followed, trailing breathless reviews.
It is always a surprise for an artistic group to arrive fully formed, but no-one was more surprised than the performers themselves.
“We thought it was more of a cabaret thing,” says performer Suzanne Andrade, explaining that it all began with a series of weird stories she told on the radio. “Paul, the animator, heard them and got in touch and started making animations to accompany the stories.” The pair then started performing in various places around London, and piqued the interest of Esme Appleton, another performer. The final piece in the puzzle was pianist Lillian Henley, a friend of Andrade’s brother, whose compositions added the live feeling the performers were looking for. Once the team was assembled, the show came together quickly – and the madness began.
The speed of that process stands in stark contrast to the development of their latest work, The Animals And Children Took To The Streets, which has seen the company spend months in the rehearsal room. “It’s been a completely different experience,” says Andrade, who attributes much of the development of their debut to its beginnings in cabaret. “We really thrive on the instant reactions of the audience, it’s like you’re making it with them.” The shift into a more traditional theatre process was an initial stumbling block for the company, who were intimidated by the expectations placed on them.
“As opposed to just ‘let’s just put all our stuff together and start working on something’, you know [this show] is going to be opening in Sydney before you’ve even started working on it,” comments Andrade. After a lot of frustration, the group went back to basics, asking themselves, “What do we actually want to make? What do we think will be entertaining, look brilliant and be really funny?”
The result is a mix of Betty Boop and film noir that continues 1927’s blurring of genre and form. The Animals And Children Took To The Streets is set in the imaginary world of the Bayou – “a big, stinking boarding house on a street full of brothels and black markets which have all been built on a big stinky ‘ol bog.” Although this work is more narrative-based than their first, Andrade reassures me “it’s no Tom Stoppard piece of theatre – it’s still very image-based, and it’s quite ridiculous. It gets quite Inspector Gadget and comic book halfway through.”
Rather than attempting to recreate their former success, the group have decided to meet second-album-syndrome head-on. “We’ve been really ambitious and really pushed ourselves,” says Andrade proudly. “We’re working with more screens, more instruments and more characters – and after being locked up for so long, we’re really looking forward to actually getting it in front of an audience!”
1927’s The Animals and Children Took to the Streets plays at Malthouse Theatre from November 9 until November 28 at The Beckett Theatre. Tickets are $26-$43. For more information and ticket sales head to malthousetheatre.com.au