On Thursday the Chaplin Theatre was overrun with rats – not vermin, but educated rodents who entertained the audience of parents and friends most incredibly well.

‘The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents’ is a novel by Terry Pratchett, which has been adapted for the stage by Stephen Briggs.  The creatures have eaten off the rubbish dumps outside the School of Wizardry and therefore acquired the ability to think, talk, read and write.  They choose themselves names from bits of litter and dream of a rat haven inspired by their devotion to a book called ‘Mr Bunnsy has an Adventure’.  Maurice himself got his magical powers by eating one of the affected creatures (much to his eternal shame) and he devises a cunning plan to make himself a fortune.  Securing the services of a ‘stupid looking kid’, who can play the pipes, the wily creatures tour the country convincing villagers that they have a plague, duly ridding the town of rats for a fee and then dividing the profits between them.  Until, that is, they arrive for one last heist at Bad Blintz and find the baddies, Bill and Ron, are running their own scam …

The smooth-talking Maurice was played with great charm and charisma by Cecily G, whilst Skye R (who isn’t stupid looking at all) was wonderful as Keith the piper.  The gang of rodents was led by a beautifully grumpy Hamnpork (Isla B), challenged by the skill of the natural leader, Darktan (a brilliant Poppy O).  The talented Summer P was the almost blind albino rat, Dangerous Beans, and Isla H was a gorgeous Peaches, Mr Bunnsy’s biggest fan and story-teller.  Frankie F played the tap-dancing showman Sardines with pizzazz, complete with boater and cane, and Matilda B was sweet as the nervous novice, Nourishing.  Almost all the children donned the incredible rat heads at various points, with Isla M also acting as the automaton Mr Clicky.

Our human cast was brilliantly led by Alara K as the hopelessly romantic Malicia, who teams with Keith to foil the baddies, Ron (a wonderful Isla M) and his sidekick Bill (a suitably dopey Frankie F).  William H and Matilda B did a great job as the rat-fighting sports commentators, Sally and Gary.  Issy DD was a Mayor of great authority, surrounded by her staff of Mia G, William H, Matilda B and Isla B, and Honor H was a crafty Piper with the shrewd Agent, Summer P.  Apart from our wonderful Maurice and Malicia, all the cast switched between roles and costumes with ease and great versatility.  Isla M even had to play Death, which she did with aplomb.

I am enormously grateful to a wonderful group of parents who helped with this production.  Antonia Beggs, Sheena Green, Fran Hanmer, Elsbeth Rankin, Gillian Oliver and Cathy Parry have worked tirelessly to collect props, create giant ones and find costumes; to Gayle Fernau who painted the giant bricks to make our rats look tiny with such incredible skill; to Hannah Dwyer who helped me so much backstage; and to Finn Harrison, our wonderful Australian Gapper who has acted as stage manager and supported me all term.  I offer thanks to the incredible Tom Moore, who does the lighting brilliantly on exactly one rehearsal; and to our minibus driver, John Alderson, who takes such excellent photos.  However, my biggest thanks, as always, go to the amazing Kate Hunt without whom I just don’t think I would be able to function!  It was she who made one giant cat head, 12 furry rat heads and a Mr Clicky; she who organised the team of helpers and she who gives me strength when the going gets tough!  Thank you.

Mary Alderson

To see all the marvellous show photographs, please click here.