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Local children follow the Pied Piper at Cornerstone

The Pied Piper Picture: Simon Vail
The Pied Piper Picture: Simon Vail

The Pied Piper, at
Cornerstone Arts Centre, Didcot, until December 30

THE Cornerstone Arts Centre in Didcot has repeated last year’s winning formula by bringing in Goblin Theatre to produce its Christmas show The Pied Piper, written by Mike Borgatti, and directed by Andrew Barry.
Comic actor Niall Kerrigan returns, this time playing the town of Hamelin’s hapless mayor. The
production also features intricate shadow puppets from Smoking Apples, whose show Flux was recently performed at the Old Fire Station in Oxford. Hamelin is now a village in Oxfordshire, where a century-old story haunts this ‘perfect’ place. Rats are feared because they herald the coming of the Pied Piper, who 100 years ago lured away the children, and the mayor maintains rituals and practices designed to prohibit any return.
The mayor and his sinister assistant Glenda (Michelle Long) enforce a super-sterility in the town to keep the residents safe. Mayor’s assistant Glenda (such a witchy name, almost Glinda from Wicked), plays her boss for the fool he is and plots a powergrab. Opposing Glenda is one of the town’s younger citizens, the mayor’s feisty daughter Peta (Laura Jeffries) whose encounter with a mysterious Green Man (Alice Blundell, doubling as the town’s butcher) leads her to assume the role of the Piper, although what Peta Piper picked is a new love for rats.
Not too unexpectedly, Glenda, using her witch’s alchemy spells, brews up a poison that turns children into rats, including Peta’s friend Benny (Nicholas McLean, sweet-voiced), the butcher’s dippy son. McLean becomes a puppeteer in charge of a cutesy large black rat that runs riot on the town’s winter solstice food display, without anyone raising issues such as Weil’s disease.
The company of children in the show are well-choreographed and all look confident in their collective roles. The cast are all actor-musicians, and the show feels much larger than one with only five professional performers.
Will Dollard and Mary Erskine’s show tunes are a winning fusion of pop and folk and the final number, A Name is Just a Name, sends everyone home feeling energised.
The Pied Piper is a deserved success for this well-run South Oxfordshire venue.

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