Tuesday 4 January 2022

The Wind in the Willows, ASC, RE-POSTED REVIEW of 2019-2020 production ****



By Kenneth Grahame, adapted by Glenn Elston

Australia Shakespeare Company

At Botanical Gardens, until 30 Jan 2022


Links: The Wind in the Willows - Melbourne


Please note: This is a re-post of my review of the 2019-2020 summer production of The Wind in the Willows. KH

The Wind in the Willows Hero Image


The most treacherous creatures for outdoor children’s performers are the kids themselves, and actors in The Wind in the Willows in the Botanical Gardens sometimes contend with little ones mobbing the stage.


Their participation is encouraged, albeit controlled, in Otis Elston’s production of Kenneth Grahame’s beloved story of Toad of Toad Hall (Ryan Hawke) and his creature cronies.


The enthusiastic children sing ‘Waggle your ears, wiggle your nose,’ and ‘Quack quack quackady-quack’, roar laughing at the antics of Weasel (Paul Morris) and Head Chief Rabbit (Callum O’Malley) , then go on a dangerous mission with Ratty (Isaac Broadbent) and Badger (Chris Asimos) to rescue little Portly the Otter (Cierra Shook/Kempton Maloney) from the Wild Wood.


This 2020 production includes some recasting, new comic bits and some more updated pop songs with witty lyrics for the adults.


Morris is the hilariously sly and sleazy Weasel who invades Toad Hall with his weasel mates, wielding giant water pistols filled with ‘weasel wee’, to the children’s delight.


O’Malley hosts the show as a youthful and charming Head Chief Rabbit, leading songs, playing guitar and, with Morris as Weasel on mandolin, entertains the parents with witty new lyrics to pop tunes.


Wearing a suitably gaudy green and pink outfit, Hawke is gleefully flamboyant as the vain and manipulative twit, Mr. Toad, who is obsessed with every sporty fad from canoeing to motorcars and gets himself arrested and sentenced to 40 years for car theft.


Broadbent is playful as the down-to-earth, river-dwelling Ratty who loves ‘messing about in boats’, while Alex Cooper plays Otter as well as a smug Policeman and a doddery Judge.


Asimos is suitably pompous and long-winded as the black and white Badger who – according to Weasel – looks like a renegade from Kiss or, worse, a Collingwood supporter, while Chloe Bruer-Jones is sprightly as the timid Mole.


Willows is ideal summer family entertainment so, pack a picnic, but guard your snacks and wine with your life, because Rabbit and Weasel will raid your hamper.


by Kate Herbert