Star rating - 3/10
I love Christmas. I love children. I love theatre. It pains me to be have to be so churlish about something that involves all three but sadly the festive production by my beloved Royal Exchange is a real turkey. And that's from a committed vegetarian...so basically not good then.
Rats Tales by Carol Ann Duffy is made up of a hotch potch of different stories, which started out showing much promise with the Pied Piper of Hamelin - a superbly dark tale with a moral lesson I approve of - deliver on what you promise or else. But the first half of the performance dipped after that strong opening with a collection of stories about trolls, dolls houses, and witches which sorely lacked coherence and failed to grip.
The second half of the play turned into an altogether darker proposition which I felt was frankly unsuitable for children. It included a girl who was being forced to marry her father, and a boy whose stepfather cruelly ignored him to the extent that he became invisible. Call me old fashioned but I just don't think this is the stuff of a family festive offering. And there was a bit of needless swearing thrown in to boot.
It tried to straddle a fine line between pantomime and serious theatre ended up achieving neither. And its darkness was not at all redeemed by its final contrived happy ending. Which is a shame for the actors who were all perfectly fine, and the lovely accompanying musicians.
The abundance of children at the start and end felt a bit like a school play - and I don't mean that in a good way. And there were nowhere near as many rats as I expected. At one point the overkill on dry ice left the audience spluttering and unable to see anything on stage either.
I predict that this production will have limited appeal - as indicated by the many empty seats tonight, and is sadly a miss for the Royal Exchange. Bah humbug...