The animals and children took to the streets

Esme Appleton as Agnes Eives

A review of the play by 1927, who knew the UK riots were going to happen before everyone else did

One: I am not a regular theatre goer, and in no position to be any kind of actual critic. Two: I am going to give away the plot, so if you are wanting to see the show at some point, don't read this! Three: I wrote this in August and forgot to post it.

I didn't get to see half the shows I wanted to see at my first ever Fringe since moving to Edinburgh. I caught Stewart Lee and Josie Long (twice), D.D. Johnson reading from his debut novel, and Owen Jones talking about Chavs, but missed Dust, which was apparently brilliant. By far the best thing I saw was 1927's The Animals and Children Took to the Streets, which was written before the UK riots, but is more socially relevant now than its ever been.

With dry humour from Suzanne Andrade's script set to a live score, the show had a child-like, fairy tale feel conjoured up by the animations projected onto the set. The audience are introduced to a prosperous city, full of art, culture, and big business – maybe London, maybe somewhere further afield. But then we travel a little further east, and follow the signs to Redherring Street, home of the Bayou Mansions.

We meet the local residents – jaded, unfriendly gossips, terrorised by unruly children; Wayne the Racist and his nightmarish offspring; and the caretaker who spends his days “utterly alone in this city,” stashing his wages until he can finally afford that one way ticket out of Redherring Street, that “fully furnished shithole” where Chubb locks and chains keep the neighbours at a safe a distance. We meet Agnes and Evie Eives, who have moved into Bayou Mansions in the hope of rescuing the tearaway children with some TLC and an art club.

But most importantly, we meet Zelda. Young, radical and fearless, Zelda and the Pirates are one of many child gangs on Redherring Street who are growing restless. Her mother tells her to accept her lot in life, that when you are born in the Bayou, you die in the Bayou. But Zelda has other ideas, and decides to lead her comrades into the heart of the prosperous city that excludes them, declaring that they are not their parent's generation, that they refuse to accept their lot in life, they will not die in the Bayou, that they “want what you have out there!”

I saw this less than two weeks after young people across the country rioted and looted, only to face an extraordinary show of brute force from the courts, pledges from Government to crack down hard on “lawlessness”, and local councils evicting entire families suspected of producing “feral” riotous offspring. Zelda and the Pirates wreak havoc in the city park – a place where the residents of Redherring Street know they are not welcome, where the tramps have all been swept away, where the crying junkie was mysteriously replaced with a water feature over night. The Mayor, who's ivory tower overlooks the city, with Redherring Street in his blindspot, is determined to clamp down hard on the riotous children, who have kidnapped his cat and left ransom demands for better living conditions, education, and an X Box for every child. Black vans round up all the children from the Bayou Manions overnight, taking them far away to be sedated, reconditioned and returned to their place in the neglected outskirts of the city.

Anges Eives, frantic with worry, tries to enlist the help of her neighbours to find little Eavie. No one will help her and she turns to the authorities – she quickly realises that the police won't help her find a wretch from the Bayou, she is sent around endless bureaucratic routes to nowhere, and even the hospital barely lift a finger after she's mugged for her kidneys. Life in the Bayou is brutal.

The children return home – Eavie is unscathed after an heroic rescue by the caretaker, who returns penniless, downtrodden, ready to start saving and dreaming of escape once again. Agnes and Eavie give up their attempts to save the Bayou from itself, a zombified Zelda flushes her book of Marxist quotations down the toilet.

1927 know that by now, their audience is rooting for some kind of happy ending, and mock us for being idealistic dreamers. But as order is restored to the Bayou, and the drudgery of daily life resumes, we are reminded that nothing can stop the Bayou from boiling over once again, maybe in another year, maybe two. It won't be pretty, or politically correct, but the disenchantment and rage of those shut out forever from the spoils of the neoliberal dream can't ever be kept quiet for long. We want what you have out there!

Posted By

Ramona
Oct 25 2011 15:10

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