(Centenary Theatre Group)


A modern day version of the Pied Piper where the roles are reversed, Ratbags addresses an evident problem within our society in the form of a brand new light-hearted musical.

The Centenary Theatre Group and director Susan O’Toole present the delightful story about the trials and tribulations of a small town overrun by street kids. When Freak (played by Brendan Jeffrey) causes chaos in the town with his gang of street kids, the townspeople and Mayor (Kerrie Lang) call Major Piper (Ray Pittman) to clean up the streets.

Jane Nielsen and Owen Gray’s script contains many witty and ironically cheesy but humorous episodes, and when combined with Mathew Bass’s catchy musical numbers, makes for an enjoyable and original show.

Set designer Catherine Abel has created a simple but fitting atmosphere, but it would have been better with more props and lighting techniques to differentiate the scenes and heighten the ambience. While the musical numbers are catchy and accompany the scenes well, they some times become repetitive and too long.

Perhaps it was opening night nerves, but the cast’s performance didn’t live up to the play’s potential, as the delivery was a bit flat, as if stuck between whether to deliver a serious or more tongue-in-cheek act. To provoke emotions in the audience, the performers need to express their charcters’ emotions more effectively.

Despite this, Chris Farrell, playing Wart, Freak’s sidekick, and Kerrie Lange as Mayor Stevens deliver excellent performances with their quirky characters, bringing great comic relief to the show. Ray Pittman (Major Piper and the Chef) and Kym Brown, (Daisy, Townsperson, Street Rat) also portray their characters well, while special mention must be made of Brendan Jeffrey for his commendable performance, despite having only two weeks to prepare.

While Susan O’Toole’s Ratbags won’t be cleaning up at the Tony awards for best musical any time soon, it is nevertheless an entertaining production that audiences young and old can enjoy for a pleasant night out.

— Simon Massey di Vallazza
(Performance seen: Fri 23rd July 2004)