To teach the town’s adults a lesson about keeping their word, twin siblings, Celeste and Ralph, enlist the help of a down-on-his-luck minstrel to overrun the town with rats.
The tale harkens back to the story of The Pied Piper of Hamelin and is explored in Hamelin: A New Fable written by Leslie Mildiner. However, unlike the original, this story has a happier twist.
“The original version was very, very dark,” said Mildiner.
Mildiner said it’s believed that the Pied Piper story may be based off of two historical events: the Ottoman Empire recruiting boy soldiers or the spread of the plague across Europe, which decimated populations.
In Mildiner’s tale, it’s the children who work to teach the grown-ups a lesson. The adults continually renege on their promises – instead of buying the children’s wood, the adults steal it from the children. The town is governed by a spoiled mayor and greedy corporate council members.
Council steadily raises taxes until Celeste, Ralph and their grandfather end up homeless.
“The kids come up with the idea of bringing the rats to town to teach the obnoxious grown-ups a lesson to keep their promises,” said Mildiner.
The two live with their grandfather Johannes, “who appears to be the only honest man in the Hamelin.”
The play has a physical performance style. Mildiner said there is some slapstick and the actors use broad movements on stage.
“Kids love slapstick,” said Mildiner.
There are six actors and musicians in the production and to create a more populated town, they use masks and puppets.
“It’s tremendous fun and it looks fabulous,” said Mildiner about the puppets. “It allows us to have many more characters than cast members.”
Although the play is aimed at children, Mildiner said there are still aspects that will appeal to adults.
“I don’t write down for kids. I write with the kid in me,” said Mildiner.
The production won a Jessie Richardson award for outstanding design concept and execution.
The play is part of TheatreOne’s Just Kidding for Kids series. It runs Saturday (Nov. 28) at 1 p.m. at Malaspina Theatre. Tickets are $10 or $18 for two and are available at www.theatreone.org, 250-754-7587 or at the door. For more information, please go to www.axistheatre.com.