Roots (4 stars)

This article is from 2019


credit: Gaelle Beri

The fundamentals of storytelling

A gastronomically unfussy cat who tries to eat God. An obnoxious prince trying his hand at playwriting. Digs at capitalism. This is the weird and wonderful world of Roots, a collection of 'folk jokes' that alternates between whimsy, sensuality, and matter-of-fact nihilism in true fairy tale tradition.

Indeed, Roots' greatest strength is the various influences it draws from: the presence of seminal fairytale writers such as the Brothers Grimm and Angela Carter is very much felt, but so are aesthetic and storytelling cues as diverse as Edward Gorey, silent cinema, Looney Tunes, and French mime. This poly-vocality results in a visually sumptuous experience that is only intensified by the production's innovative blending of the digital and real. Projecting intricately animated scenes and disembodied voice-overs that the physical actors move and speak within, Roots offers an extraordinary blend of the material and digital that acts as a fascinating mediation on the nature of theatricality and liveness.

The familiarity of the folktales means that individually each story says nothing new, but this is itself part of Roots' ambition. Rejecting the morality of traditional fairy tales, Roots instead considers the ways in which culture is rooted in story, in stories that form, connect, and trap – stories, like Roots, that tell something fundamental.

Church Hill Theatre, until 25 Aug (not 14, 21), 7.30pm (& 3pm on 15, 17, 22 & 24), £25. Part of the Edinburgh International Festival.

1927 Presents: Roots

Witty, stylish and subversive, 1927 blends sophisticated stagecraft with the early days of cinema, all brought to life through the company’s signature fusion of handcrafted animation and storytelling, with a live musical score involving donkeys’ jaws, musical saws and Peruvian prayer boxes.