On the 26 June 1284, 130 children mysteriously vanished from the town of Hamelin, Germany, for which the Pied Piper has been blamed in legend. Centring on this tale, this piece is intended to show the audience that children can be the victims of horrific ordeals. Through music, speech, film and physical theatre we are taken through a sea of issues including drink-driving, the holocaust, cyber-bullying, school massacres and child soldiers in Africa. This story is all told by children, which attempts to makes the message of the show all the more profound. Though a worthy attempt to draw attention to these matters, it is a shame the show lacks the power and energy to really allow the audience to feel compassion.
The show covers too much ground and thus becomes weak on most of the fronts with which it engages. It is best described as a series of tableaus or short sequences which take us from one horror to the next. This is an interesting idea but the stop-start style often gives the impression that the show is rather jumpy which prevents us from being swept up by the action and removes that punch the company hopes for.
The cast are all in black and with the exception of a chair or two they use no props. Whilst this simplicity provides the neutrality to engage with all the necessary topics it leaves the cast with little to do, and provides nothing for the audience to look at in the quieter moments of the work. At one point the chairs were used for percussion which immediately increased the excitement, as the town joined together to call for the Mayor of Hamelin's downfall. Indeed, the production misses a trick here: the violinist from the band could have played the Pied Piper, for example, rather than having an imaginary violin being played as well. Frustratingly though, the band were confined to the back of the stage and bringing them out could further the importance of the music. The stories are predominantly expressed through songs, and the lyrics were reflective of the message, however I wish that they had sung a little louder and with better diction, because the audience seemed to miss a lot of the lines.
Hamelin: The Last Child has an original take on the age-old topic of child suffering which it has placed in a modern context. It forces us to consider how many modern equivalents of the Pied Piper might exist today which is a more than worthy question to ask. I only wish that better execution had enabled the matter to be explored with more energy, as unfortunately I never felt the chill that was intended for us to feel.