Jo Crowley, of celebrated theatre company 1927, tells us about the return of their landmark show that takes audiences into a sprawling, stinking world of curtain-twitchers, peeping toms and a wolf forever at the door…
The show opened in 2010 to huge critical acclaim and toured the world for four years; why did you decide to revive it? Demand, really. We kept receiving invitations to take it to different venues but we just didn’t have time. Then we got some funding which has meant we can tour this as well as continuing to work on a new show. But it feels just as relevant now as it did back then.
Its themes of social inequality and rebellion proved prescient just before the London riots of 2011; did you have a sense of tapping into a mood? It wasn’t intentional but you can’t ignore what’s going on in the world around you. The show was largely made in a warehouse space in East London where you’d have kids mucking around outside at all times of the day because they didn’t really have anything else to do, and we couldn’t help but wonder why that was. As a company, we think we have a responsibility to create work that reflects the world around us.
Who are 1927? The company started in 2005 and is, primarily, a collaboration between an animator and illustrator (Paul Barritt) and a theatre maker (Suzanne Andrade). When performer Esme Appleton joined, she suggested they merge animation and live performance – and that’s really where everything began. I was brought in as producer after their first show, The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea, opened in 2008. I was impressed by their talent and vision. There was a real freshness to their approach.
Reviewers have compared your work to Berlin cabaret, silent movies, artist Otto Dix and illustrator Edward Gorey; what do you consider to be your biggest influences? We’re magpies, stealing things from all over the place and influenced by various visual aesthetics, and it changes depending on what we’re interested in at a particular moment in time. It’s not necessarily a conscious thing. When we look back on a piece, you can see a particular influence but it feeds in organically. We’re more analogue than people realise. Because Paul is an illustrator everything begins with his pen and ink illustrations. It’s all quite handmade.
What can audiences expect from a 1927 show? Our work seems to resonate visually because of Paul’s amazing animations and aurally with the live music. Our themes tend to be universal – rebellion; uprising; social divides – so whether we’re presenting in the Middle East or the Southern Hemisphere everyone can take something from it. There’s a playfulness that runs throughout; we like humour. But really, all people can expect is the unexpected. In 28 countries, the thing most people say after watching our work is: “Oh my God, that was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”
The Old Market, Dec 19th – Jan 12th