Dalriada School Junior Drama Club infested with Ratz!

Dalriada School Dramatic Society presented its third production of the year on Thursday 19th May in the John Armstrong Hall.

Following the Junior Drama Club’s abridged version of Macbeth in October and the annual school play in December, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the Dalriads were delighted to have a third outing and present Simon Adorian’s entertaining play, “Ratz”.

The plot is based on the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, but places the same dilemmas in a more contemporary context with social issues such as anti-social behaviour and poverty playing key parts in the tale of bad decision-making by those in power above us. The play also gives lots of opportunity for humour as well as tackling important themes.

And, as always, the pupils of Dalriada’s Junior Drama Club rose to the challenge for their full house – extra seating had to be laid out just before the curtain went up and the Town Crier, Susanna Peden, oh-yayed us with the safety announcements!

The set was well conceived with the back wall covered in graffiti, to reveal a favourite hobby of the town’s local teenage pests – the “Ratz”. “Hamlin sucks” proved to be very true when the audience met the members of the town council who were far more concerned with themselves and their luxuries than with the needs of the disadvantaged people in their community. Set changes were smooth and practical and allowed for a fluid performance.

The children of Hamelin opened the play, establishing the main plot when Becky, excellently played by Rebecca McAuley, was kidnapped by the Ratz! The were some great lighting changes here, establishing different moods, especially at the arrival of the gang of Ratz – in blue lighting, dressed in black with glow-stick necklaces and bracelets and dramatic facial make-up all creating an excellent effect. Jan, played faultlessly by Laura Abernethy, witnesses this terrible crime and becomes key in the story that follows. Laura is most definitely “one-to-watch” – an easy confidence on stage, a natural performer. This reviewer predicts great things for her in Dalriada’s dramatic tradition! Ben Kidd played James and delivered a very confident, convincing role. The rest of the members of this important group were ably played by Erin Johnston as Jenny, Emma Kane as Jo, Paulina Marzalek as Kate, Beth Patterson as Lorna and Michelle Ko as Paula. There is a wealth of talent in the Junior Dramatic Society and these are all names I’m sure you will hear again in years to come.

Hypocrisy is rank in this town council apart from the occasional efforts of the social worker on the council, Ms Fortune, ably played by the very poised Emma Jones. Julie Hutchinson as the fully made-up and funny Mrs Graham, Georgia Allen as the green-fingered and hilarious Mrs Phipp and Eve Taggart as the thoughtful and helpful Ms Worthington made up a very convincing variety of Councillors, ably led by Thomas Hancock as the Mayor of Hamlin - a superbly arrogant and self-motivated mayor. Costuming was great here as each character’s costume really reflected their personality. The audience enjoyed the inter-active scene where they got to join in the council meeting about the “Case of the Missing Child”, heckling and jeering as each councillor spoke. Calum Telfer as Councillor Witham got off to an excellent start here and proceeded to get even better as the show moved on providing strong humour all the way through – and it’s always good to have someone to boo!

The citizens of the town provide important social comment as well as humour. The nurse, played by Shannon Hayley, provided powerful comments about the violence of the Ratz from her perspective at A and E; Rev Couch, Lily Meldrum, asked the townspeople to give the Ratz some respect; “Kit Callow” played by Rachel Beckett, defended the Ratz as young people having fun; PC Luckless, Rachel Fallows, said that she needed more policemen to help; Mrs Wright, Susanna Peden, who also played the Town-crier, gave her views clearly and firmly; Louise Wilson performed very well as Martha Bind. Daniel White played Ron Sparks with his back-firing rat-trap and added a lot of humour as the Ratz close him in in his own trap – a clever visual metaphor for the destructive consequences of not treating others, especially those who are in need and who we don’t understand, in the right way.

And of course the Ratz themselves have to convey a malicious yet sympathetic role –, and that can be tricky. They are strong-minded people who have reason for their actions but no voice. These actors - Rachel Hunter, Megan McBurney, Kamila Marzalak, Rebecca Mitchell, Libby Hoy, Rowan Moffitt-Calrke and David Tang – more than met the challenge and provided us with convincing and dangerous characters to enjoy! Their movements, costumes and makeup were wonderfully memorable.

The arrival of “The Stranger” is a great moment and this was superbly achieved with Aoife Cameron-Mitchell’s scary performance. A rhyming chant and some nice choreography to show the stranger’s power over everyone. Aoife’s voice was excellent – strong, measured, disturbing – just as it should have been. Again, a great actress with a bright future ahead of her on the Dalriada stage. Her costume was designed by Natasha Robinson, a former A-Level Art student in Dalriada and it suited the role perfectly, setting this stranger apart from the rest of the characters. And Aoife moved superbly in it as she commanded the stage with poise and confidence.

The play drew to its conclusion with a terrific squabble as the councillors met, outside their usual chamber, to plan NOT to pay “The Stranger”. Again, the cheating, devious behaviour of those in power is revealed and the consequences are immense and the stranger leads the rest of the town’s children off stage in alarming blue, silhouette lighting, controlling them, owning them, gone forever.

Of course, no production happens easily. The busy back-stage teams all deserve a round of applause as they contributed so significantly to the success of the night. So, thank you to the Props team, so ably led by Susanne Smyth [who also provided the important and tricky job of prompt] to the Make-Up team, led professionally by Cara McConville who also took care of the Business team with Stephanie Watson, to Lighting led by Adam MConville, Sound by Marcus McLean and Niall Sherman and Backstage provided by Jade Dickson – all in all a fantastic team who pulled together to produce a terrific night of Junior Drama in Dalriada!

And finally, to the three producers – Mrs Sharon Flynn, Mrs Marion Hadden and Dr Terry Hunter – may your houses be rid of the ratz – for a little while at least! Great show, Dalriada!

Review provided by Jacob Grimm