Edinburgh Fringe 2021
The Rat Affair present RAT – The Pied Piper of Hamelin reimagined through live music and shadow puppetry. Amidst a score that shifts between boisterous folk and sparse piano works, RAT tells the tale of a curious man who offers to rid a corrupt town in crisis by driving its vermin infestation away.
Black and white and sepia tones, eerie silhouetted shadow puppets and moody music tell the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin visually, without words. Created by The Rat Affair, the company website describes them as “a band of musicians, theatre makers and visual artists.” The music and the musicians are outstanding and are the foundation of the filmed show with several musicians playing many instruments such as a piano, trumpet, clarinet, accordion, drum, violin and trombone, to name a few! Film of the musicians is continuously present, with the story told through shadow puppetry in the centre of the screen and the puppeteers are shown below.
The vibrant sound and sophisticated music together with the shadow characters create an intriguing atmosphere. Even though we might be familiar with the story, the abstract visual storytelling is dark with surprises. Pulsating beats, jazzy to folk music, percussive rhythms and smoothe sounds play when shadow characters dangle, transform from a person to a rat and huge hands lift up a building.
Pauses in the music begin a new chapter and buildings appear, are deftly covered then disappear. Images of drawings with perspective in warm sepia tones melt into view and a woman in a black dress dances as a little girl watches from her window. Rats appear, it’s a bit scary! Girls daintily descend stairs, and a person stands in the old world square. Always stylish, at times it’s not always clear what is happening in the story.
The artistic design of the shadow puppets is beautiful – woodcut style bold black lines of a man’s face, and a girl’s face shows her eyes sliding from one side to the other, are nice touches. Nuances in the tone of music add atmosphere and support events with jaunty music in a street scene and the noise of a car engine. There are creative characters with strange features such as the man with one tooth, lots of rats, and a statue of a man holding a rat, the man who saved the town.
The music is such an important character in this creative shadow puppetry performance, and the final minutes of instrumental music have the last say!