I Was A Rat! packs an emotional punch
Following the press night in Birmingham of our co-production of Philip Pullman’s I Was A Rat!, our Chief Executive, Stephanie Sirr, gives her thoughts on this immensely physical, emotional and entertaining show.
Physical theatre as a description has been a little tarnished for those of us of a certain age. For me, memories of DM and black legging clad drama students (I was one of them) banging desk lids and using our bodies as our “tools” in the words of Rowan Atkinson’s mime artist remain all too clear.
However, watching the first performance of our co-production with Teatro Kismet, of Philip Pullman’s I Was A Rat! reminds of the emotional punch of work created from the whole performer. The story centres on a small boy who arrives one night at the door of an elderly childless couple telling them “I was a rat!” and unfolds into a strong parable about “otherness”, the power of the tabloid press and to the value of love, from whoever and to whomever.
Teatro Kismet uses the old couple as the heart of the piece, the loving counterpoint to the bureaucracy, exploitation and condemnation which attempt to remove the “other” from a world where he cannot be pigeon holed. Whilst Roger (the rat boy) is wonderfully personified by a supernaturally bendy and gymnastic Fox Jackson-Keen – full of febrile energy, hunger and confusion, his parents physicality is lyrical, a gentle tango in swirling snow, the movement patterns of years of life together – a subtle dance of unity and a symbol of the regeneration their new son brings. Against this the commedia dell arte grotesques of ancient clueless judges, evils hacks, exploitative circus managers and filthy urchins are clearly political statements; although in 2013 post-Leveson Britain don’t actually seem particularly exaggerated.
I Was A Rat! is gorgeous to look at – the sumptuous, overblown and tawdry circus costumes contrasting with the beauty and simplicity of a puppet princess who uses just her face, hands and feet to communicate her humanity. Part Gogol, part dance, some slapstick, certainly a tear and plenty of laughter made I Was A Rat a really special evening. We’re very proud to be a part of it.
I Was A Rat! plays at Nottingham Playhouse, 26 March – 13 April
I Was A Rat! is a Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company production in association with Birmingham repertory Theatre, Ipswich New Wolsey and Teatro Kismet.