Friday, 3 January 2003

Wind in the Willows, Australian Shakespeare Productions, Jan 3, 2003.

Wind in the Willows  by  Kenneth Grahame  Australian Shakespeare Productions
Botanical Gardens enter Gate F
 10am and 6pm Tuesday to Saturday  until January 25, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Each new cast of Glenn Elston's  production of Wind in the Willows brings a different edge to this charming outdoor children's show. What never changes is the spectacular environment of the Botanical Gardens.

The audience, seated on rugs and surrounded by snack foods, is greeted by the personable Head Chief Rabbit  ( Ross Mathers) and the rascally Weasel (Robert Jackson). The light, comical banter between this pair is always peppered with adult jokes and innuendo for the parents.

Mathers and Jackson dub us all honorary bunnies. Just to prove it we all sing 'Waggle your ears, wiggle your nose and sing whispering willows." The next arrival is the timid compulsive cleaning creature, Mole.  ( Vanessa Case)

Once we are warmed up by both the sun and the Rabbit and Weasel duo, we toddle off on an adventure through the Wild Wood  to the River.

It is here that the Bottie Gardens struts its stuff. Fruit bats, swans and ducks provide scenery and soundscape while the actors cavort in front of, and even in, the glistering lake.

Ratty (Ezra Bix) arrives in a rowing boat with a picnic basket.  Otter (Brett Cousins) swims to us wearing a wetsuit and Toad of Toad Hall  ( Ben Anderson) tumbles from a canoe. Ben Anderson successfully plays the wise, lazy old Badger  as a blustering old British lord.

When Otter's son, Portly,  (Arky Elston) disappears, the action heats up and the Weasels take over the Toad Hall in a silent terrorist assault

There are some delightful songs and characters. Jackson provides some hot Weasel Jazz on clarinet and guitar. He's a 'Lounge Weasel'. Ratty, played in wonderfully high panto style by Bix, sings Know You Ducks,  a great hit in the audience participation stakes.

Anderson plays Toad as an outrageously flamboyant vaudeville star or game show host. He is all teeth and vanity. "I'm not fibbin', I'm a hot amphibian," he sings.

Director, Greg Carroll,  keeps the show warm and the jokes coming. My only criticisms are that the pace is occasionally slow and some actors have not fully entered their characters. Take a rug and brolly and a sandwich and cop another a look at this cute little show.

By Kate Herbert

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