PIED PIPER To 21 February.



Norwich Puppet Theatre Whitefriars 21 February 2013,
11am & 2.30pm.
Runs 45min No interval.

TICKETS: 01603 629921.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 17 February at Little Angel Theatre Islington.

Humour and invention in high-class show.
A Norwich Puppet Theatre production at the Little Angel combines England’s two leading building-based puppet companies, and ought to be very good. As a one-person show this Pied Piper, which toured last autumn, hardly exploits the Little Angel’s technical facilities, but is well up to standard.

Puppeteers aren’t actors, but Jonathan Storey brings physical and vocal skill to his story of a travelling minstrel with a problem: his supposedly dancing monkey prefers reading or taking a nap. This provokes the minstrel’s memories of his father’s day when the Pied Piper could make everyone follow his tune.

A set dominated by suitcases, each opening-up to reveal locations, mirrors the travelling motif. The venal Mayor of Hamelin has a balcony, and a separate podium from which to make public speeches. He also has a modern-seeming microphone, going with the excuse for taxing people to raise anti-rat funds because “we’re all in this together”.

Pompously attired and self-seeking, the Mayor is helpless in face of the rats which climb Storey’s face and multiply as finger-puppets till they sway around the town. After the tall, gaunt Piper has fluted them away, he towers over the Mayor when his pay’s refused, the gold-clad functionary cowering ever-lower in fear of the stranger.

Jonathan Lambert’s score includes contrasting music to entice first rats – a sustained, haunting piece that compels them, against all knowledge of danger, to throw themselves in the River Weser – and a chirpily dancing piece which draws the children. If there’s anything that might be developed it’s the situation of the one rat that doesn’t make it and the sick child who can’t join his friends.

But the legend of the new, juster town that grows the other side of the hill from Hamelin taps into the idea of a new generation bringing a better world (or city) that could gently resonate with the 3-7 intended audience. However, in its colourful skill, occasional humour, well-paced storytelling, and contrasting tale of minstrel and monkey to frame and set-off the main event, this could delight others too; it’s well worth catching on its return to Norfolk.

Performer: Jonathan Storey.

Director: Bob Percy.
Designers: Karen Torley, Joy Haynes, Paul Osborne.
Music: Jonathan Lambert.

2013-02-19 09:55:13

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