There is nothing like a good story at Christmas. In Roots, Home Associate Company, 1927 brings us a dozen or so of the most weird and wonderful from around the world.
Its inspiration comes from the Aarne index of folk tales, held in the British Library, which is a collection of thousands of ancient folk tales from all corners of the globe, with universal themes such as greed, love and magic that connect us all.
It opens and closes with the story of a murderously greedy cat, who eats not only its mistress but heaven, hell and mother earth herself. There follows what writer and director Suzanne Andrade describes as a ‘rag tag collection of folk jokes and stories’, all told with 1927’s inventive mix of Paul Barritt’s animation, performance and live music.
If you’ve seen the company before you will be familiar with Lillian Henley’s accompanying vaudeville style piano and song, which gives the production a feel of mixing mime with silent movie screenings. This time, a musician at either side of the stage plays a range of instruments – some instantly recognisable like a violin and glockenspiel while others add to the fascination of the overall quirkiness of the show, such as a donkey’s jaw, Peruvian prayer boxes and musical saws.
Recorded narration by friends and family, who are not trained actors, adds another layer – for example, The Luckless Man who is fated to be unlucky, is narrated by Nigel an ex steel worker turned councillor from North Talbot in Wales.
Over the course of an hour or so we hear of a king who puts his bride through many trials to test her fidelity; a man who shares his flat with poverty, and an unremarkable character who squanders wishes on meat pie and ale, with contemporary reference to the US presidency.
Each tale is told with a delicious dose of dark humour, giving us all the darkness of a fairy tale without the happy ending. Some, such as Two Fish, have a moral of sorts. It tells of a fishing family who catch three fish every day. One day the parents decide to drown their child so that they can eat more than one fish a day each. After the child’s death the pair only ever catch two fish a day.
The story ends here and for the most part there is no clear direction from the company of which way to think. This openness has both its up and downsides for the show. Its lack of an overarching narrative and structure mean it doesn’t have the same impact of the previous shows from 1927 we’ve seen at Home. But as a whimsical escape over the festive season, this alternative Christmas show is a winner.★ ★ ★ ★