The Piper | My Darling PatriciaPhotos – Jamie Williams

The Piper
is some of the loveliest children’s theatre I have ever seen. It’s clever and charming and never condescending. Even though I’m not exactly the target audience, I was captivated by it. An absolute Sydney Festival highlight.

The show is a retelling of the famous fairy tale The Pied Piper of Hamelin. In this production by My Darling Patricia, Hamelin has been overrun with rats because of the town’s terrible garbage management policy (they hide all their rubbish in cupboards and corners and holes in the ground so that the town can look nice and so win the Tidiest Town award). The inept mayor tries to convince the townspeople that everything is fine – they’re not rats! they’re tiny Chihuahuas! imagine them in diamante collars!, he exhorts the townspeople – but while some of the adults buy his lies, the children are not fooled. The kids ally themselves with a mysterious (and very funky) bear who has come to town. Together, they make a deal with the mayor: the bear will spirit all the rats away if the mayor gives her something valuable in return. But when the mayor reneges on his promise and does not pay the piper properly, trouble ensues…

This is an exquisitely lovely reimagining of the traditional fairy tale with an environmental twist. The way the piper bear is portrayed is so gorgeous – I would definitely follow her away, if given the opportunity. Anthony Ahern as the mayor is suitably self-aggrandising and full of swagger – the moment where he admires himself in the mirrored surface of the Tidiest Town trophy speaks volumes. It is a beautifully staged production, simple, stylish, and elegant.

But the best part of My Darling Patricia’s production is the interactivity. If you can experience this show from one of the seats on the stage, make sure you do. These lucky audience members are also performers. Wearing headsets through which they receive directions, they become the townspeople of Hamelin: the hapless adults and the clever children. I didn’t get to experience this aspect of the show myself – and just watching the show is in itself wonderful – but the people who did seemed to be completely enchanted.

The Piper is an absolute delight. It is not didactic, although the environmental message is clear. If you have kids, take them, but there is plenty here for adults too (for example, there’s a joke about Bob Hawke which I imagine flew right over the heads of the kids, but garnered a big laugh from the adults in the audience). Being whisked away by The Piper is a must this Sydney Festival. This is theatre with magic in it.

Sydney Festival in association with Carriageworks presents
The Piper
My Darling Patricia

Venue: Bay 20 | Carriageworks, Eveleigh
Dates: 9 – 19 January 2014
Tickets: Onstage $55 (includes 1 adult and 1 child) | Seated Adult $35/Child $20
Bookings: 1300 856 876

Most read Sydney reviews