The Pied Piper of Liverpool

The Casa, Hope Street
Written & directed by Julian Bond
Produced & devised by Mikyla Durkan
25th January - 1st February 2013

Reviewed by Joe Coventry
Photograph by Kai Andersen

On a pig of a night a play about rats, (two as well as four-legged), immigration, communes, bigotry, racism, child abduction a show trial and more.

Big themes for a small theatre, a volunteer amateur cast and an audience that braved the elements to be there.

The reasonable crowd faces a stage with minimal props - symbolic representations of the Runcorn Bridge, Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, Liverpool St John's Tower and the Liverpool Albert Dock Waterfront Big Wheel amongst them: iconic landmarks to be introduced as the play develops.

The Pied Piper (Alun Parry), alone of the cast, wears a garish multi-coloured suit to signify his otherness. Everyone else wears black, apart from a few bright hats for the women council cronies backing up the Mayor (Alun Bower). Think Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.

Liverpool has a problem. Town Rat Catcher Lord Rug (Mike Leane) is failing in his test to clean the streets when the Pied Piper turns up to offer his services. But where does he come from and why are the people not only suspicious but openly hostile to him?

He takes the contract to drive the rats into the River Mersey - there is a surreal mime scene were he visits landmark sites with his apprentice (Adam Byrne) and the distinction between human and rat societies is blurred in the activities they witness. It appears he succeeds against all the odds - but the Mayor reneges on the deal when the Runcorn Local (played by Alan Bower), informs the Council that the rats have been released by the Piper to live in the Cheshire Hills.

The Piper gets his own back for not being paid by enticing the children of Liverpool out of town with his magic flute. He comes back to try again for his fee but is imprisoned for psychiatric assessment and the children are returned to the fold, saved, it is put about, by a jubilant Mayor. As a show trial takes place the children have decided to form a commune of their own and will not go back to "the old ways". Facing untrue accusations of impropriety with minors after jilting the come-on from Dame Hoodless (Kate Mulvihill) his apprentice pleads his case but the public are sceptical.

The rats hear of his plight and help him escape from prison and chase the council members down to the river. The Piper though gets his girl played by his feisty landlady (Sahah Tyrer).

That's the bones of it. But what of the acting, stage management, set design, costumes and music?

Several of the cast have multiple roles, Laura Foulkes plays a laboratory rat and the Children's Leader. On the first night you expect a few nerves, and the tight space and constant to-ing and fro-ing needed good stage lighting, while the music helped direct the action. The black costumes could be confusing but the rats on sticks in the blackouts kept the audience on their toes.

Hopefully you won't have to trudge home in the snow.... now if councils could hire him to get the gritters out?

Burjesta Theatre

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