The ratboy's world is a brutal series of rejections and exploitation as the couple try to find who has lost him and then lose him themselves. A psychiatrist dismisses his case, officialdom has no time for him, and school is more about violence than learning. He cannot even make a life as a ratboy in a travelling show because he is too polite. And it is here in the show that we encounter the most scary of all the costumes: the nightmarish clowns worried some of the little theatregoers around us although they loved the comedy policemen with their funny dog. I expected the younger audience members to be alarmed by the pest doctors that formed the parliament with all eight of the cast in the familiar beaky masks of Venetian masquerade but they loved the pontificating and posturing as the ratboy's fate was debated.
Rescued from the travelling show by the leader of a criminal gang, the ratboy is caught aburgling and jailed for his crime. At this nadir he is visited by the recently married princess who is literally all costume in a masterstroke of theatrical design. In the first act there had been moments that felt as though the production was trying too hard for virtuosity but it hit its stride after the interval and I have to admire the Birmingham Rep for commissioning this English version and the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, for booking such an avant garde performance for the provinces.