Wednesday, 6 January 2016

The Wind in the Willows, Dec 30, 2015 ****

Adapted by Glenn Elston from the book by Kenneth Grahame
By Australian Shakespeare Company
Botanical Gardens, Gate F, until Jan 23, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert (reviewed on Dec 30, 2015) 
Review also run in Herald Sun online and later in print. This review was scheduled on Dec 31 to be posted on Jan 6. KH

Head Chief Rabbit (Roscoe Mathers), Toad (Ryan Hawke), Ratty (Leigh Piper)_Pic Matt Deller 

It is nearly three decades since Glenn Elston’s first production of his adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 children’s book, The Wind in the Willows.

This boisterous and playful outdoor show is back at the Botanical Gardens but, for its 29th season, Otis Elston, who once played Portly Otter, takes on the mantle of director of this show that captivates family audiences each summer.

Grahame’s book is very English and this production maintains the cheery, quaint style of the story and characters but injects it with local, topical references, bad puns, vivid costumes (Karla Erenbots) and bold make-up (Melanie Ranken) that bring it into the 21st century.

Roscoe Mathers as Head Chief Rabbit once again leads the band of merry animals in their adventures and engages the audience of all ages with his sardonic humour, musical skill and cheerful rifling of people’s picnic baskets.

Willows is a simple tale of friendship, morality and adventure and the children not only holler enthusiastically at the characters’ slapstick antics and idiosyncrasies but they also go on a dangerous adventure with the Rat Pack and Badger Patrol to rescue Portly the Otter (Alana Lewis) from the Wild Wood.

Their participation does not end with rescue missions but includes warning Chief Rabbit, “He’s behind you!’ or singing along with gestures to ‘Waggle your ears, wiggle your nose,’ and belting out the Ducks’ Ditty chorus, ‘Quack quack quackady-quack’.

Paul Morris is back playing his hilariously camp, sneaky and slightly sleazy Weasel, the villain of the piece, and playing a mean mandolin.

Ryan Hawke’s Amazing Mr. Toad is entertainingly brazen, vain and entitled, behaving like an over-indulged, British public schoolboy who chucks tantrums when he doesn’t get his own way.

Leigh Piper is calm and confident as the river-dwelling Rat who is the only sensible creature in this gang, and Andrew (Hondo) Honromatidis plays Otter as a slightly whiney but bouncy surf-life saver, as well as the poncey, smug Policeman and a doddering Judge.

Chloe Bruer-Jones returns as Mole, the sprightly but timid obsessive cleaner, who also plays excellent violin.

 New to the cast is Mitchell Roberts as the pompous, long-winded Badger who, according to Weasel, looks like a renegade from Kiss with his black and white make-up.

Willows is a robust and beguiling entertainment for children from three to 103 on a hot summer’s day or evening – but remember to guard your picnic hamper from hungry Rabbits and Weasels.

by Kate Herbert

Director - Otis Elston
Costumes - Karla Erenbots
Make-up - Melanie Ranken

Head Chief Rabbit - Roscoe Mathers
Weasel - Paul Morris
Rat - Leigh Piper
Mole - Chloe Bruer-Jones
Toad - Ryan Hawke
Badger - Mitchell Roberts 
Otter/Policeman/Judge - Andrew Honromatidis

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