SUZANNE Andrade is a girl out of time. She is a woman captivated by the 1920s, not only in the way she dresses, but also in the work (and indeed the name) of her multi-award winning theatre company, 1927.
Edinburgh Fringe audiences got a taste of this obsession in the run-away hit Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, a sepia-tinged gothic cabaret that evoked the pioneering days of cinema. And now, four years later, they will get another taste in The Animals and Children Took to the Streets, a darkly comic amalgam of animation, live music and archly spoken narration set in a pre-welfare state world of deprivation and cruelty.
"I just really like early cinema, crude drawings, grainy old film and having my ear and eye to the past," says Andrade, sitting in London's Battersea Arts Centre in an ever-so 1920s beret.
She developed this retro interest at university while studying grand guignol, the Parisian horror shows that peaked in popularity in the inter-war years. She says she loves to listen to early musical recordings, not so much for the music itself as the crackly quality of the period technology. When it came to naming the theatre company she founded with animator Paul Barritt, it seemed appropriate to pick one particular year. "1927 just came up because it was the year the first talkie came out," she says. "It's got some resonance with what we do, the look of it and being about storytelling."
At the same time, she does not feel hidebound by the name. The Animals and Children Took to the Streets marks a move into colour and a step away from the deliberate graininess of her Fringe First-winning show of 2007. "This one is slightly less set in the 1920s era," she says, "although a lot of it came from looking at some Otto Dix and George Grosz pictures, looking at this decadent side of the 20s as opposed to this romantic, black-and-white grainy side."
A big hit in London before Christmas, the show is a creepily comic tale of disappearing children in a decaying tower block known as the Bayou Mansions. There is perfect synchronisation between actors and images, as animated insects crawl the walls and characters sweep the stage just as a cartoon dust cloud blows up behind them. With the speech all emotionally detached BBC English, it is both funny and disturbing.
It is also a step forward in the sophistication of the company's singular technique. A dazzling combination of live performance and pre-recorded cartoons, it is a multimedia marvel. To make sure it works as a piece of theatre with seeming spontaneity, Andrade is exacting in rehearsals, repeatedly returning to the editing room to get the pace right. "What I do theatrically is all about rhythm," she says. "Because we're combining performers, live music and the film, it's really important that the rhythm doesn't drag and it's tightly choreographed."
WHERE & WHEN
THE ANIMALS AND CHILDREN TOOK TO THE STREETS
19–28 August, 4.10pm.
Tel: 0131 556 6550
© Mark Fisher 2011
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