Thursday, 1 January 2015

The Wind in the Willows, 31 Dec 2014 ****

Adapted from Kenneth Grahame by Glenn Elston
Australian Shakespeare Company
Botanical Gardens, Gate F entry, until 24 Jan 2015
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ****

Review also published in Herald Sun after Sun 4 Jan 2015. Sorry for delay in upload here but I've been away at the beach! 
My favourite line from this show was the kid yelling, "Get out of our picnic!" Gold. KH

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The Amazing Mr. Toad and his bonny, boisterous and belligerent pals are back in the Botanical Gardens to play The Wind in The Willows for littlies and biggies alike.

This summer’s season marks the 28th year of Glenn Elston’s outdoor production adapted from Kenneth Grahame’s original, very British book for children.

Veteran of the Willows cast, Roscoe Mathers, invests Head Chief Rabbit with his wry humour, musical skill and easy, engaging manner as MC and chief jokester.

Mathers’ Rabbit also blatantly snaffles snacks from picnic baskets causing one protective child to holler, “Get out of our picnic!”

The children giggle and howl at the characters’ mad antics, go on an adventure with Head Chief Rabbit, Ratty and Mole, then join a dangerous mission with the Rat Pack and Badger Patrol to rescue little, lost Portly the Otter from the Wild Wood.

They participate enthusiastically, calling out, “He’s behind you!” and singing lyrics such as, “Waggle your ears, wiggle your nose,” or the inimitable “Quack quack quackady-quack.”

There’s a new Weasel in town this year and it’s Paul Morris playing a gloriously camp, louche and simpering Weasel instead of the oafish thug of previous years.

Ryan Hawke is cheerily Vaudevillian as the goofily conceited, entitled and twitty Mr. Toad while Leigh Piper is a warm-voiced and confident presence as the river-dwelling Ratty.

Andrew (Hondo) Honromatidis is vocally commanding as Otter and entertaining as the bellicose Policeman and Judge, while Elisha Field is cute as his son, Portly.

Ben Noble’s Badger is suitably daffy and long-winded and Chloe Bruer-Jones is perky as the compulsive-obsessive cleaner, Mole.

Willows is now an Elston family affair, with this production being directed by Otis Elston, Glenn’s son, who played Portly Otter when he was a child, and his production will no doubt tighten up as the season runs.

Summer shows are a hoot for families so take the kids to Willows, then join the grown-ups on the other side of the Gardens to enjoy the outdoor Shakespeare later at night.

By Kate Herbert

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