Live Review: Dr Seuss Meets Elefant Traks - GRAPHIC Festival at Sydney Opera House (11.11.12)

It was hard to know what to expect from the Elefant Traks crew when this show was hotly announced a couple of months prior. Part of Sydney Opera House’s Graphic Festival – which is essentially a festival dedicated to animation – many were excitedly curious as to how the well respected hip hop crew would create a meeting of styles between their Australian brand of hip hop and the inimitable style of Dr Seuss's characters and world.

The show began much like a kid’s show, with an animation showing poor old Ozi Battla running late for the show. Arriving onstage in a Biggles-style pilot’s outfit (fresh from the plane that dropped him at the show), he introduces the various animals that live in the ‘Elle Faint Trax Zoo’ - in Seuss-style rhyme nonetheless. From there we are taken on a journey; not only through the work of Seuss, but through the wonderful family that is Elefant Trax.

The format was simple yet clever, with each of the label’s artists performing one of their songs as tribute to a particular book in the Seuss catalog; Hermitude picking McElligot’s Pool, Joelistics paying tribute to greed with The Lorax, and Urthboy opening proceedings with his rendition of ‘We Get Around’ put against Seuss’s And To Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street. Some of the songs were slightly changed lyrically to reflect the story in their chosen book; others were left as is, keeping the juxtapositions a little more abstract.

The show really shined however when the acts dropped the regular tunes and got to some new works specifically made for the show. Toe Fu from The Herd made a new track for The Sleep Book, and Jaytee’s turntablist version of The Foot Book – cleverly swapping feet for turntables in the story was a standout. The Tongue, however, absolutely stole the show with his spectacular recital of The Zax and his re-appropriation of Gerald McBoing Boing as a beat boxing wunderkind, not only showing a great selection of character voices but also an excellent story-telling ability.

Walking into the theatre to the recorded sounds of orchestra tuning was a nice touch, which continued between songs throughout the show, along with a recorded intro to the history behind each of the books. The visuals were good but mainly consisted of 2D animation; becoming more of a montage of stills than a fully animated show. Considering the limited budget this writer assumes they had – as well as the time constraints that were mentioned in interviews prior to the show, the visuals were very well put together.

Its no mean feat for a group of Australian hip-hoppers to be invited to perform at one of the world’s most respected music halls, let alone being afforded access to the works of arguably the world’s greatest children’s writer and an oft-sited influence for many hip hop artists. But to also have the chance for an audience to recognise the legacy of the label, and the artists within in, was not lost on the crew, who were incredibly humble throughout the show. Even if at times they were perhaps a little uncomfortable in a venue with a seated audience, the crew relished every moment to create an unforgettable experience not only for the audience, but for the label as well.