Thursday, 29 December 2005

The Wind in the Willows, 20th Anniversary, Dec 29, 2005

 The Wind in the Willows 
adapted from Kenneth Grahame
The Australian Shakespeare Company 
 Botanical Gardens, Gate F, Dec 29 to Jan 28, 2005
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Dec 29, 2005

The Wind in the Willows in the Botanical Gardens celebrates its 20th anniversary this season. It is still a hoot for kids and adults.

The script is adapted from Kenneth Grahame’s very English children’s story, but this version is riddled with local references and Australianisms for all ages.

We receive sticky labels entitling each of us “Rabbit” then our host, The Head Chief Rabbit (Roscoe Mathers), entertains us with gags and songs.

The Botanical Gardens play a major role. The opening scene is played before the real lake, which plays the role of the fictional River. The gardens behind us play the frightening Wild Woods.

Chief Rabbit is joined by his arch-enemy, the snivelling, twitching Weasel, (Robert Jackson) whose aim is to overrun Toad Hall with his weasel family.

Rabbit and Weasel taunt each other, tease the adults, titillate the children and teach us a song that involves waggling our ears, wiggling our noses and singing “whispering willows.”

Before we meet the infamous Toad of Toad Hall, (Andrew Dunne) we are introduced to Ratty (Ezra Bix), the amiable, picnicking water rat. He invites Mole (Charlotte Strantzen), the meek little homemaker, to join us on an adventure.

By this time the children are totally involved in the fantasy of the River animals and await the arrival of Mr. Toad.

But there are more madcap characters to meet. Badger (Alan King) is like an old, reliable army general who cannot abide noise and fuss and can lead a battle with only rabbits and assorted animals for soldiers.

Then comes Otter (James Stafford), a perky, slightly dim water creature who is looking for his errant son, Portly (Otis & Arky Elston).

When Mr. Toad appears he is no disappointment. Dunne plays Toad with a pompous presence and a marvellous singing voice.

Ratty no longer arrives in a rowing boat and Otter does not appear out of the lake in a wetsuit but the show is still hilarious, charming and has some fun participation for the kids – and adults.

The battle for Toad Hall is a riot with weasels being pummelled and tossed over the walls and the children love the songs and adventures.

By Kate Herbert

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