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Ratburger @ Botanical Gardens

Once you have kids, you soon realise that Sunday nights are no longer all about spinning records at 7×7 in The Forum or Two for One pizzas at BRB on West Street. No. It’s usually a chance to get an early night after a weekend racing around kids parties and karate classes whilst mopping up puke from your lapel hoping no-one has noticed.

Which is why these days, folk are putting a lot more effort into kids entertainment. You only have to look at the output of Pixar to realise that a kids movie needs to amuse the parents as much as the children, and as such, us mums and dads are pretty vocal if something doesn’t come up to scratch. You only have to look at the outpouring of fury on Facebook after the recent, rather over-huped Woscon Junior event at Magna which led to the organisers giving most punters their money back. Mumsnet is a surprisingly powerful force you know.

So even though it’s aimed at the under 12s, that all means when it comes to Ratburger, Heartbreak Productions adaption of the David Walliams best-seller, I’m expecting to be royally entertained.

Was I? Well yes and no. It follows the story of 12-year-old Zoe and her pet rat Armitage (named after everyone’s favourite urinal manufacturers) as they try to avoid being captured by pest controller/burger van owner Burt who wants to make Armitage the main ingredient of his next speciality patty.

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Performed on a small stage in the grounds of the Botanical Gardens by a cast of five (most of whom play multiple characters) singing over what was a rather rudimentary sound system, this certainly wasn’t The Royal Albert Hall. But it was great fun and made the most of its limitations; when a supermarket cage doubles as a bed, toilet and burger van you know you are on a budget.

Raj the sweet shop owner arguably stole the show with his charming exchanges with Zoe – despite the fact Health and Safety will no doubt be interested to hear he lets kids nibble the ends of chocolate bars and repackages them as ‘second hand’ (“Just call me a used-bar salesman,” he tells us).

And while most of the jokes were very much aimed at the kids, Walliams couldn’t help himself with the suggestive relationship between Zoe’s teacher Miss Midge and headmaster Mr Grave, which was very well handled by the cast so it didn’t jar with the rest of the story.


But I guess Walliams understands that premise; if you’re going to expect parents to part with their hard-earned cash and spend two hours in your company, you need to give them a little something to smile about too.

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