The Pied Piper can be a pretty scary story when you're little. The idea of being piped away as a punishment to grownups is not a fun idea.
But the Axis Theatre Company has given the medieval morality tale a new twist, and kept the kids safe.
Hamelin: A New Fable is their musical live-action adventure play. Like the original, it is about the importance of keeping your word.
Artistic director Chris McGregor says: "The play has a greedy mayor and uses commedia dell'arte, improv and puppets to tell the tale."
The actors perform original music on instruments while on stage. Bob Buckley composed the music, the lyrics are written by Leslie Milndier, who also adapted the original story. Choreographer Marlise Buckley, who also works for Cirque du Soleil, arranged the dancing.
The five performers play over 40 characters in the 50-minute show. It helps that most of the characters are masked, says McGregor.
"They're pushed into a sort of cartoonish, warped version of themselves, and the kids in the audience will see them as warped," he says.
Axis Theatre Company has pursued physical theatre for almost 40 years.
Employing the combination of mime, clown, mask work, puppetry, text, music and acrobatics, Axis has earned 13 Jessie Richardson Awards for theatre.
In the traditional Pied Piper story, the pied piper is called to remove rats from an infested kingdom, and the payment promised is not paid. The piper gets revenge by leading the children out of the kingdom the same way — by playing his pipe.
Hamelin: A New Fable is a new version, where a cruel mayor instead breaks his promise to two young children and gets his comeuppance from the pied piper.
"The whole idea is working together under adversity," McGregor says. "There are all these twists and turns, and a different kind of story because we didn't want the kids to be taken away (as in the fairytale)."
McGregor says they tell a story that appeals to all ages.
"We have jokes and it is suitable for a family. Adults really enjoy it, too," he says.
"Everyone stays engaged and there are different levels of humour."
The play was originally performed at ArtsStarts in Schools, a B.C. not-for-profit that brings performance groups together to showcase their work to teachers and other youth organizations, says McGregor.
Hamelin scored the highest mark possible with judges and the result was 235 shows throughout B.C. in a tour running from September 2015 until April 2016.
"I would say 90 per cent have been in schools, from Kindergarten to Grade 7, and the rest in a few theatres, like the arts centre in Whistler, for families," McGregor says.
"They can do up to 10 shows a week. They perform it in the morning, take a lunch break, and set up in the afternoon."
The play is followed by a 10-minute question-and-answer session which gives youngsters the opportunity to ask about the show, acting and anything else they want.
Hamelin: A New Fable takes place at the Maury Young Arts Centre on Saturday, Feb. 20, at 6:30 p.m.
As an added treat, the event is also a pajama party, with the audience invited to don their favourite PJs. They can also arrive early — at 5:30 p.m. — for an arts and crafts session, where they can make crowns and rats whiskers to wear during the show.
Afterwards, cookies and juice will be handed out as a bedtime snack.
The show is recommended for children aged five and over.
Tickets are $13 for children aged 12 and under, $18 for adult WAC members and $20 for adults without membership.
Family packs can be purchased for $60.
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