Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Wind In the Willows, ASC, Dec 28, 2013 ****

Adapted by Glenn Elston from Kenneth Grahame’s story.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Gate F, until Jan 25, 2014

Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Dec 28, 2013

Stars: ****
Review also published in Herald Sun online on Mon Dec 30 and later in print. KH.
Slap on a hat and some sunscreen, pack a picnic and pile the littlies into the SUV for a peppy family outing to The Wind In the Willows amidst the lusciously cool greenery of the Botanic Gardens.

2014 marks the 27th year of Glenn Elston’s adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s eccentric, old-fashioned and very British adventure tale about Mr. Toad and his pals saving Toad Hall from a Weasel invasion.

The production thrives on wacky characters, audience participation, music, slapstick and good old storytelling.

The children adore the gentle, playful participation that invites them to waggle their ears, wiggle their noses, sing along with “Quack Quack Quackady Quack”, and go on a dangerous mission into the Wild Wood to rescue little otter, Portly (Tamalyn Davies).

Roscoe Mathers is an institution after 21 years as Head Chief Rabbit, and he never fails to entertain kids and parents with his cheerful banter, perky songs, and cheeky nicking of picnic food.

The Weasel is Rabbit’s nemesis and Jim Dunlop plays him with a sleazy cunning that makes this sneaky Weasel the villain that the kids love to hate.

Andrew Dunne, even after 200 performances in the role, plays with relish the egotistical, toffy-nosed twit, Mr. Toad, and Nicholas Dubberley is suitably patriarchal as gruff but wise old Badger.

Jack Beeby is charmingly boyish as Ratty who introduces shy, little Mole (Andi Snelling) to life by the Big River, and Nicholas Renfree-Marks, as practical joker, Otter, deserves a special mention for his resonant, operatic singing. 

There are plenty of witty contemporary allusions and groan-worthy puns for the adults, including references to Bunny’s Warehouse, Mylie Cyprus, Justin Beaver, Ron Weaselly, Harry Otter and Frogwarts’ School.

The comical insults fly when Toad is arrested for dangerous driving then is sentenced to 19 years of hard labour after calling the copper “a fat-faced goon” and the Judge “a cloth-eared, old goat”.

In the finale, children and parents delight in cheering and booing as the invading Weasels fire water pistols at the friends, attempt to cook Mr. Toad for dinner and are finally tossed out of Toad Hall on their weaselly ears.

This show never ceases to entertain young families so get down to the Gardens and enjoy year 27 of The Wind In the Willows.

By Kate Herbert
Roscoe Mathers (Head Chief Rabbit) 
Jim Dunlop (Weasel)
Andrew Dunne (Mr Toad) 
 Tamalyn Davies (Portly) 
Andi Snelling (Mole) 
Nicholas Dubberley (Badger)
Jack Beeby (Ratty)
Nicholas Renfree-Marks (Otter

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