Out of the Wings

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Hamelin (c.2005), Juan Mayorga Ruano

English title: Hamlyn
Date written: c. 2005
First publication date: 2005
First production date: May 2005
Keywords: morality > crime, violence > social, identity > class/social standing, identity > sexuality, family, power > use and abuse
Title information

The play’s title refers to the fable of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. There are several versions of this tale. One of the most famous is by Robert Browning. The town of Hamelin is overrun by rats. The townspeople want to be rid of the rats and so the Pied Piper arrives and promises to destroy the rats in exchange for money. He uses his music to enchant the rodents and lead them into the river, where they drown. However, the townspeople refuse to pay him. In revenge, the Pied Piper enchants the children of the town to follow him and they disappear behind a mountain. The only child left behind is a lame child who cannot keep up with the other children. In some versions of the tale, the town repents and pays the Piper and the children are returned. In others, the children never return.

  • Browning, Robert. 1888. The Pied Piper of Hamelin, with 35 illustrations by Kate Greenaway. London; New York, George Routledge and Sons


A beautiful city glitters during the day. But at night, the rats emerge.

A wealthy man is accused of buying sexual favours from a young boy from a disadvantaged family. Montero is in charge of the judicial investigation of these allegations. Is Pablo Rivas, the accused, guilty? Or is he simply a kindly benefactor whose fatherly interest in the boy has been misinterpreted? Soon more serious questions arise. How can the truth emerge when the wealthy use their contacts to escape justice and when the media distort the facts? What chance do the poor and inarticulate have when those in power equate poverty to criminality? Where is the Pied Piper who will rid this corrupt city of its rats?


Hamelin is set in an unnamed city over a period of several weeks. It is divided up into seventeen scenes, each one introduced by an internal narrator who is called the Commentator. This individual stands at the side of the stage and informs the audience of characters’ inner thoughts, speaks directly to spectators about performance decisions, and describes the scenery.

Hamelin focuses on the work of an investigating judge, Montero, who is looking into allegations that a young boy has been sexually abused by a wealthy bachelor. For Montero, a father of a young boy himself, the case is much more than just routine. The accused, Pablo Rivas, is a powerful citizen who has contributed much to the rundown area in which the alleged victim lives. Josemari, the 10-year-old boy in question, has indeed spent a lot of time with Rivas, just as his elder brother used to do. Offspring of impoverished parents, these children exist on the dirty streets of a disadvantaged neighbourhood. Charitably, Rivas takes the children of the area to church in his BMW. Afterwards he sometimes takes them for hamburgers. Little things, Rivas argues, that mean so much to poor kids. Certainly, he has taken photographs of them. He may indeed have images of children on his computer … but, as he is well aware, this is not against the law.

Confronted with a powerful suspect who knows how to manipulate the law, Montero tips off the media in order to punish Rivas in some way. And so, for a time, Rivas is vilified in the press. Soon, however, his story is yesterday’s news and the media lose interest. With no evidence, and with Rivas’s powerful connections impeding his investigation, Montero cannot prove that his suspect’s admitted interest in children has led to any actual sexual abuse.

Montero’s professional failure to convict Rivas is coupled with troubles in his private life. He is becoming increasingly distanced from his wife, Julia. He walks the streets at night rather than returning home to face the behavioural problems of his own little boy, Jaime. Jaime has become violent in school and is assessed by the child psychologist, Raquel. Gradually, Montero and Raquel become close. He tells her the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, a story his father used to use as a way of talking to his son about difficult issues. Unlike his father, however, Montero cannot find the words to talk to his own son.

Eventually, still unable to convict Rivas or to be a father to his own child, Montero turns his attention to Josemari and his family life. He enlists the professional services of his new friend, Raquel. In her view as a psychologist, the poverty of Josemari’s family, combined with the fact that his father Paco does not have a job, are both causes for concern. Raquel’s clinical diagnosis is that Josemari has been neglected and ‘prostituted’ by his father for financial gain. And so, she convinces Montero that Josemari must be taken into care. At the end of the play Montero realises that his attempt to be the ‘Pied Piper’ of this city have failed. Josemari is left alone in the care of the state; a family has been condemned for being poor; a father is separated from his son. Montero is still unable to talk to his own son and the wealthy Rivas goes unpunished. With no effective Pied Piper to come to its rescue, the city’s rats are multiplying.


The allegations in Hamelin were inspired by actual events. In 1997 the neighbourhood of Raval in Barcelona became the focus of media scrutiny as accusations of child abuse were investigated. Parents were suspected of ‘prostituting’ their children at weekends to local paedophiles. Questions were asked of the way in which the accusations were investigated and reported in the press. Innocent families were vilified, in part through the sensationalisation of the story in the media.

In 2000 the Spanish-Catalan journalist, Arcadi Espada, wrote an award-winning book entitled Raval: del amor a los niños (Raval: Regarding the Love of Children) in which he criticised the way in which the press treated the accused individuals. In 2003 the director Joaquim Jordà produced De nens, a documentary in Catalan about the way in which the allegations were sensationalised in the media.

  • Espada, Arcadi. 2000. Raval: del amor a los niños. Barcelona, Anagrama (in Spanish)

Critical response

Hamelin has won a number of national prizes including Spain’s National Theatre award in 2005. This prize was specifically awarded to the Animalario company for their version of the play directed by Andrés Lima. In 2006 the Animalario production of the play that toured Spain and South America also won several Max Prizes. Alongside Himmelweg, Hamelin is one of Mayorga’s most internationally successful plays, with performances having taken place, for example, in Poland, France, Italy and Portugal.

Further information

Montero, the character looking into the claims of paedophilia in Hamelin is an investigating judge. This is a position in Hispanic-speaking countries but may appear unusual to English-speaking audiences who are used to judges in a different context. The investigating judge position is similar to a senior police detective on a criminal case.

  • Mayorga, Juan. 2005. Hamelin. Ciudad Real, Ñaque

  • Mayorga, Juan. 2007. Hamelin, 2nd edn. Ciudad Real, Ñaque

Useful readings and websites
  • Espada, Arcadi. 2000. Raval: del amor a los niños. Barcelona, Anagrama (in Spanish)

    This award-winning book by the journalist Arcadi Espada investigates and criticises the media's sensationalist reporting of the 1997 Raval allegations of child abuse.

Entry written by Gwynneth Dowling. Last updated on 6 October 2010.

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