INVENTIVE, LIGHT AND BEAUTIFULLY PERFORMED
THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
by Kenneth Grahame
adapted by Tim Bray
TIM BRAY PRODUCTIONS
at The Pumphouse / Lake Pupuke, Auckland
From 31 Mar 2012 to 21 Apr 2012
Reviewed by Vanessa Byrnes, 1 Apr 2012
My 8-year old town girls were excited about seeing “adult humans dressed as animals” in this production which has been mounted a few times now. It's a wee gem that's perfect for the 2-8 year old market; my girls were captivated by the spectacle of makeup and costumes that the concept provides.
Lake Pupuke is the ideal environment for this peripatetic production which goes from outdoor amphitheatre to lakeside to the Pumphouse Theatre itself. Live guitar and clarinet (sensitively played by Kristie Addison) complement the English idyll concept very well.
Ratty, Mole, Badger, Otter, Toad, Policeman and a trio of naughty weasels channel many spectrums of the UK class system in this story which is at times light on narrative but heavy on well-observed characterisation and inventive staging.
Madeleine Lynch plays Ratty with lovely detailed observance, always on the hunt for the perfect spot to have her picnic. Will Ratty ever get to eat that delicious sandwich?
Margaret Bremner is a sweet Mole, aware of her shortcomings but willing to rise above them. Will Mole become friends with Toad of Toad Hall?
Tom Wardle's Toad is the classic tweed-wearing, moneyed, free spirit, always on the hunt for the next new ‘shiny' fandangled thing.
A fantastic final scene is led by Sam Berkley as Chief Weasel. ‘Pop Goes the Weasel' will never be the same again, and Berkley's timing is hilarious. Those three little weasels put me clearly in mind of Crash and Eddie (the skater-dude possums) from Ice Age.
This show is inventive and light, and at an hour and 10 mins tops is ideal for families with younger children. Tim Bray is renowned for providing high quality work for younger audiences and there's something special about this show; a nostalgic, Famous-Five, cucumber-sandwich branding world where the sometimes all you have to think about is the flow of the wind in the willows.
At its heart it's really a play about rebellion, since Toad (a kind of public school anarchist) is constantly trying to upset the order of things. I would love to see more of that sense of rebellion and naughtiness encouraged in the audience.
A great wee show beautifully performed. Take a picnic and enjoy it with the kids afterwards in the adjoining park.
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