It’s often said that rats belong in the gutters but this Christmas the Royal Exchange Theatre fills its stage with 30 children playing the creatures. Rats’ Tales is a collection of verminous fables inspired by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, dramatised and directed by Melly Still. Far from a Christmas panto, the play include darkly enchanting folk stories exploring the theme of childhood performed by an energetic cast. Stories include The Changeling, featuring a family whose baby is snatched by a troll and replaced with a troll boy who only eats rats, and Duffy’s retelling of The Pied Piper of Hamelin where the community, led by a duplicitous politician (who is played with obvious Cameron digs), have their children whisked away by a Frank Zappa/Nick Cave-esque Piper. In these fairytales, children are lost and childhoods are stolen. The play includes dropdown screens featuring video design by Manchester based film-makers Soup Collective and a live soundscape from a duo of multi-instrumentalists. Showing us how the ordinary can become extra-ordinary, all of the tales asks adults and children alike to cherish their imaginations and indulge in the magic of storytelling. Not one for musophobics (people scared of rodents!) or the faint hearted for that matter, but Rats’ Tales is sure to nibble away your inner Scrooge.

Until Sat 12 Jan, Royal Exchange Theatre, St Ann’s Square, M2 7DH, Tel: 0161 833 9833, Mon – Fri 7pm (various dates excluded), Sat 3.30pm & 7.30pm, Wed 2.30pm, £10 – £35 (conc avail),

Sun 9 Dec - Sat 12 Jan
Shereen Perera
Published on:
Tue 8 Jan 2013