Thursday, 30 December 2004

The Wind in The Willows, Dec 30, 2004

The Wind in The Willows 
adapted from Kenneth Grahame 
The Australian Shakespeare Company
Botanical Gardens, Melbourne Gate F, Dec 2004 to January 31, 2005
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Each summer, The Wind in the Willows is invariably a popular family show.

The script may be the same each year but each group of actors brings a new face to the show and introduces topical gags that appeal to all ages.

Adults and kids are all labelled 'Rabbits" and then the fun begins.

Our MC, The Head Chief Rabbit, is Rosco Mathers who has cheeky repartee and a comfortable manner with the littlies.

His nemesis is Weasel  played with plenty of snivelling and twitching by Robert Jackson. They make a wonderful double act both comically and musically.

Mathers plays trombone and accordion and Jackson backs all of the songs on either clarinet or electric guitar.

We are invited on a journey to meet the legendary and very pompous Mr Toad. Played with blustering vanity by Trent Baker (OK) The audience is kept alert with three location moves and a parade of new and even more daft characters.

At first we meet the retiring Mole  (Perri O'Connor OK) who is obsessed with cleaning and wants to go on an adventure.

At the River, (played beautifully by the Lake) we have a treat in store. Jolly old Ratty,  (Ezra Bix OK) appears in his rowing boat and offers us all a picnic.

Bix has the style of the show down pat, employing delightful physical detail in his role as the very social and leisurely water rat.

Next we find wise old Badger asleep on a bench. Alan King  plays him with a booming voice like a fusty old Brit.

Otter is portrayed by James Stafford, another fine singer who doubles as a Copper and the Judge who puts Toad in jail.

The entire show is peppered with audience participation  and cheerful songs.

The songs  range from the opening "Waggle your ears, wiggle your nose" to Badger's  song about Toad's exploits and Toad's own self-serving song called "The Famous Mr. Toad."

Some cast changes in this season improve the characterisation and the new ensemble peps up the pace.

The banter between the actors is always a hoot for adults and the cast captivate the children with the dilemma of Toad hall being invaded by rascally Weasels.

The characters are smug and charming and very, very English. But who cares? It's great entertainment.

By Kate Herbert

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