Rats we usually think of as creatures living beneath our feet, in sewers and the like. But multi-discipline artist, Kyle Legall has brought his rats up much higher, to very top of the Wales Millennium Centre’s roof Void, where the iron ladders and grey steel air-conditioning ducts make an ideal setting for this work that fuses fine art and theatre disciplines very comfortably together.
But there is little comfort in the creatures we meet tonight. Four actors clad in huge, wonderfully designed and executed rat masks, with enormous eyes that glitter as they catch the light and long curling whiskers that add to their menace. They certainly demonstrate a very menacing attitude to us mere humans, as their colourful proceedings come to an end.
They are a nasty lot, particularly the Boss, Boson rat, a very forceful performance from John Norton, who welcomes us with a flow of vulgarisms as he organizes his very sweet captive’s coming of age. Her elder brother played by Anthony Corria brings a subtle understanding to this difficult role and has to take her out into the world for the first time, leave her there to steal something from a human being and find her way back home with it. Danielle Fahiya playing the female rat in search of her name despite being a rat, gives her a touch of gentle beauty and some wonderful balletic movement. Initially we are very captivated by her but as she gains in life experience she loses her gentle touch to become a full member of the rat clan.
In most theatre work we can usually find several characters to sympathise with. But here we eventually enjoy hating them all.
They are clad in black and there are moments in this gritty, dynamic work where it feels like some mad painter is throwing great blobs of black paint against the wall. However on the female rats first encounter, after being left to fend for herself, is an imprisoned white rat. All the voices are amplified with an echo, adding to the menace but White rat played by Imran Khan, has a quieter more persuasive Welsh valley’s tone contrasting with the harsh ‘Kardiff’ notes that creep in.
There seems to be a lot of Lewis Carroll type allegory, rat behavior/human behavior in the work and much of this occurs in the good-natured conversation between female rat and White rat as she attempts, successfully, to release him from his prison.
This is a promenade performance and it’s not always easy to work out where we should go next. But we are all in a very good position for the denouement where the rats have set in place plans to blow up Cardiff bay and we leave wondering if they will succeed.