The Pied Piper
ROSY WISEMAN is jolly and sad at the same time, like a Coca Cola Christmas advert.
Written by James Moran, Lucien Young & Mark Fiddaman
Directed by Will Seaward
I was excited about my first Panto, and even more about a play with a ‘Magic Consultant’. The ADC’s production of The Pied Piper did not disappoint. In pantomimetic terms it was everything I had ever hoped for, but simultaneously everything I’d dreaded. So while there was a catapulted alcoholic cat and a buxom frau with her own train of sausages, there was also an occasional inconsiderately long musical number or wan caricature. In the end, though, The Pied Piper was most memorable for snow sprays and a spate of happy endings for characters who had, for the most part, entirely won over the rightfully eager audience.
Will Seaward is to be commended for the rotundness of characters that could so easily have been two-dimensional. From her first entrance, Tamara Astor’s Rudi bridged high-farce and sweetness. Her swan-like proportions, witchingly, surrendered completely to those of a pre-pubescent, lame, pauper-boy. Ben Kavanagh’s show-stealing, kid-nicking turn as the Pied Piper benefited from endless details: from the gloriously incongruous spacewaves bleeping from his pipe to a costume that resembled a Horrible Histories vision of Byron’s Albanian dress.
Frau Faberge, a vision in petticoats and salami, was unrelentingly funny, and a bit unsettling, in the hands of Abi Tedder. A significant number of laughs came from the ability of these actors to detract from certain weaknesses of the script (repeated use of the word twidiot), but you forget all about that once the Frau starts singing, and it all starts getting a bit sexy.
Strong leads were appropriately supported by the joy of pie-ing and catapults. Alex Lass’ Mayor was as important as either; it must have taken a lot of effort to look constantly wobbly. His rendition of Enrique Inglesias during a foray into cannibalism was a moment to be savoured.
But it saddened me that as much as I wanted to love Dannish Babar’s alcoholic cat (Katzenjammer, no less – linguistic comedy), I just couldn’t. Although he was much more enjoyable in the second half, owing to being catapulted perhaps, Katzenjammer’s lines always seemed half-hearted. Vom-jokes were never bawdy, complex or strange enough to satisfyingly avoid cliché. Animal humour, however, did save the day, as he was lead off the stage ecstatic at the discovery of his own tail. Alexander Owen’s one-note Rat King, though buoyed with gusto, suffered from similar problems, ending up as little more than an impression of Jeremy from Peep Show in a rat costume.
On a purely sensual level, The Pied Piper had the seductiveness of someone who you know has made an effort. The sets were suggestive of good things to come, and changes were well-lubricated. Some personal favourites were the Pied Piper’s child-cages and a gang of cross-eyed talking trees. A dextrously jumpy pianist (part of a stellar orchestra) and the jerkiness of the cast gave mime scenes the creepy glamour of a Melies mêlée. These tarty show-girl tactics and the strength of the lead actors meant that The Pied Piper was, despite its flaws, a rather nice introduction to pantomime.