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Roots review

Weird and whimsical animation meets live action in this collection of international folk tales

Overdosed on sugar and jollity over the Christmas break? Here are some dark and twisted tales to even things up.

Roots, at The Old Market in Hove till 18 Jan, takes obscure folk stories and offbeat jokes from around the world and brings them to the stage in a weird and whimsical mash-up of styles.

If you like offbeat fringe, old silent movies or animation, and perhaps a touch of League of Gentlemen dark humour, this is for you. The production is by 1927, whose previous shows, which also appeared at TOM, have included Golem and The Animals and Children Took To The Streets.

The team cleverly blend live action with cartoons and stop animation, so, with the use of projections and holes in the backdrop,   two dimensional characters are often given real human faces.

There are also on stage musicians providing live accompaniment with folksy music and effects on a range of unusual instruments.

A serial killer cat, a dog with special powers, a laughing ogre and a deeply misogynist king are among the strange cast of characters in Roots.

Some of the tales have been selected for their modern day irony. There’s even a presidential joke. Some are obscure for a reason. Don’t expect entirely conclusive stories or neat morals – part of the fun is how slightly bonkers or at least lost in translation they are (like the fashion-conscious French ant whose marriage to a mouse ends in domestic tragedy, causing various creatures and objects to collapse in grief).

The actors don’t speak directly, so it’s all helped along by doleful and tongue-in-cheek narration with accents from around the world.

1927 has a legion of fans who were out in force on the night I went along, eager for the next instalment of cartoonish craziness.

It’s certainly a fun show, much of it is darkly humorous (though don’t expect belly laughs) and the staging is pleasingly clever.

It’s not one for children (one of the bits that made me laugh the most involved an ogre’s severed privates!) but if you have an artsy teen into animation it could be right up their street.

Just watch out for that killer cat!

Catch Roots at The Old Market, Hove daily until Sat 18 Jan. Tickets from £22. . Check out the trailer:



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