The Pie-Eyed Piper of Hamilton

Pantomime is not just for Christmas, according to Òran Mór, whose take on the genre is a wonderfully satirical look at the corridors of power. The plot is a traditional one: the mayor of City State enlists the help of a Scottish boy with a ‘magic pipe’ to rid the streets of rats. The typical panto tropes are all present and correct; the jokes are fresh and topical and the cast of four are clearly having a great time.

On this basis, summer pantomime deserves to become tradition.

Jimmy Chisholm’s mayor, complete with Boris Johnson blonde wig and not so Boris Johnson tight yellow shorts, provides a lot of the laughter, blustering around with hilarious upper-class gumption. His occasional wisecracks about the ridiculousness of the plot points and the simplicity of the set also raise smiles – this is a production that knows exactly what it is, and it isn’t afraid to play around with genre conventions. Paul James Corrigan deftly provides us with two dames for the price of one: the mayor’s daughter is overly made-up, exaggerated and grotesque; the piper’s mother is tattooed and broadly Scottish. Both characters are funny, wonderfully realised and Corrigan is excellent at getting the audience onside. Annie Grace and Kirstin McLean provide wonderful support throughout and Grace’s piping is genuinely impressive.

Dave Anderson’s script is light on its feet, but unafraid to push political buttons. In a climate where journalists and politicians routinely refer to ‘swarms’ of immigrants, the Mayor’s attitudes to rats (and, later, Scots) is instructive of a prejudice that is rearing its head more and more in contemporary Britain. The Piper doesn’t pretend to have a solution to this, but it does remind us of the power of laughter to bring hateful ideology into sharp focus. If anything, it seems a shame that these themes aren’t dealt with more extensively – the more thought-provoking material towards the end is eschewed in favour of an audience sing-along. That this should happen in a supposedly ‘adult pantomime’ is a little disappointing – it shouldn’t have to dumb itself down because of the tropes of the genre. Singing a comedy song at double speed remains stupidly fun but it’s slightly disappointing it comes at the expense of developing an interesting political point.

This aside, Anderson has succeeded in bringing pantomime to wholly new context. On this basis, summer pantomime deserves to become tradition.

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The Blurb

The Pie-Eyed Piper of Hamilton by Dave Anderson, Òran Mór and Ayr Gaiety bring panto to the Fringe with traditional ingredients, plot twists, and rats! The Mayor is worried: the City has become a victim of its own success. With great wealth has come great excess. And with great excess has come danger! Danger from vermin... we're talking rats! The Mayor's concerned about finding a husband for his beautiful daughter... it's a pantomime! There's a peasant from a hamlet called Hamilton who's famed for working miracles in pest control – but he comes with issues...

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