The Bayou, a terrifying slum-estate on the periphery of a gleaming, modern metropolis, is the setting for theatre group 1927's The Animals and Children Took to the Streets, currently at Ductac until the 25th.
This irreverent and noir tale follow the horrendous Bayou's more colourful characters. Like 'Racist Wayne and his Eight Racist Children', or the Russian junk shop woman, whose daughter plans to lead a mini-Marxist revolt with her band of fellow ragtag children; the gloomy caretaker who has been amassing cash for seven years and finally has enough to escape the rotting Bayou; and at the centre of all this is the Eaves, a smiling mum-and-daughter duo who reach Mary Poppins-levels of tweeness as they insist that all the delinquency on the estate could be cleaned up with just encouraging the kids to do more collage.
The Animals and the Children Took to the Streets debuted in Dubai on Tuesday following a tide of much-deserved acclaim back in the UK. The play started life in the Edinburgh Festival and, after a national run with five-star reviews when it was at the Cottesloe Theatre in London, is now moving onto a world tour backed by the British Council, dates in Sri Lanka and elsewhere in Asia over the coming weeks.
As an export, it abounds with British dark humour, a vaudevillian sense for the absurd and is full of life. It's exactly the kind of theatre that those not used to watching live performance should go and see: Accessible without being simplistic; has many nods to great moments in theatrical history without being indulgent and, given the riots that plunged the UK into a quandary of despair last year, it's also rather topical.
The show draws you in with its visual and aural oomph, with the almost entirely constructed from animation as beautifully scratchy and lo-fi drawings are projected onto three background panels throughout. As the actors interact with these animations, impressive given that they can't ever see what's being projected onto the walls behind them, the work feels tight, well paced and it never as if they're relying on these techie bits to carry the show. Instead, marvelously bawdy songs (with the opening sung monologue about the down-and-out denizens of the Bayou being particularly good), and live piano played throughout by one of the troupe gives the performance its pace.
There are clear influences from Robert Wilson's The Black Rider, with its white facepaint, stompy soundtrack and grasp of the darker sides of mime, yet The Animals and Children Took to the Streets shows off everything that new theatre can still do, and is highly recommended viewing.
Continues at Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre (Ductac), with performances on February 23 (7.30pm) and 24 & 25 (2.30pm and 7.30pm). Price AED 80, call 04 341 4777