THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
15/02/2013 - 03/03/2013
A celebration of Christchurch Botanic Gardens 150th Anniversary
Starring Mark Hadlow as Toad.
It’s now many dreamy summers since Kenneth Grahame introduced the memorable riverbankers and wildwooders of The Wind in the Willows to everyone who loves an adventure story.
It’s even longer since the first plantings in our beloved Botanic Gardens made leafy riverside rambles a special part of being in Christchurch. And now, when so much of our past has been lost or reduced, it is with great delight that we bring Rat, Mole, Badger and Otter – not to mention the inimitable Mr Toad – back to sport about our riverbanks.
Here’s to Alan Bennett’s brilliant script, the evocative music of Jeremy Sams, the help of the Christchurch City Council and Botanic Gardens, and the support of Anthony Harper.
Here’s to summer and the magic of theatre or as Toad himself would say, “poop poop!”
Christchurch Botanic Gardens,
behind the children’s playground
Friday 15 February – Sunday 3 March
Tuesday – Friday 6pm
Saturday and Sunday 12.30pm and 6pm
Performances include an interval
No performances 18, 25 – 27 February
Cancelled if wet
Mark Hadlow ......... Toad
Julian Anderson ..... Rat
Andrew Clarke ....... Mole
Michael Adams ...... Badger/Otter
David Allen ........... Chief Weasel
Lance McBride ....... Albert
Jillian Bartram ....... Bargewoman /Washerwoman
Emily Twemlow ...... Gaoler’s Daughter /Raewyn Squirrel
Carol G Carr .......... Shirley Squirrel
Osher Dan............. Little Rabbit
Liam Hallum Kerr ... Portly #1
Adara Scott .......... Portly #2
Tony Brittenden ..... Stuart Stoat/Engine Driver
Edward Bijl ............ Gerald Weasel/Rupert
Emma Richards ...... Fox/Monica/Ruby Rabbit
Dave Neilson ......... Norman Weasel
Geoff Yardley ........ Ian Stoat
Brian Sullivan ........ Fred Ferret
Terry Regan ........... Magistrate/Robert Rabbit
John Howden ......... Court Clerk/Salesman
Julian Carroll ........ Policeman/Herbert Hedgehog
Learne McArthur .... Rose Rabbit
Lin Clark............... Director
Rozena Hallum ...... Director
Productions ………... Production Manager
Craig Woolgar ....... Stage Manager
Lauren Messias ...... Assistant Stage Manager
Julie Drummond ..... Dance Choreographer
Lance McBride ....... Fight Choreographer
Hamish Oliver ........ Musical Director
Brenda Hayes ........ SFX Designer and Operator
Julian Southgate .... Props Designer/Maker
Judy Dasler ........... Props Mistress
Charlotte Foate ...... Props Painter
Amanda Dickie ....... Costume Designer/Maker
Terry Elliott ........... Assistant Wardrobe Mistress
Robin Harris .......... Mic Manager
Fiona Bennetts ....... Mic Wrangler
Jonathan Hill ......... Operator
Panto treatment of woodland classic
Review by Elizabeth O’Connor 16th Feb 2013
Adapted famously by Alan Bennett from the 1908 children’s classic by Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows can seldom have been staged in a more sublimely apt location than this curving riverside niche in the Botanic Gardens.
The audience occupies one bank of the river, spread among picnic blankets and baskets on a gentle slope. Across the river, a small jetty-like construction, with adjoining pathways, shrubberies and copses of larger trees seems to be the world of the play … until the actors started rowing, swimming, floundering, escaping, pursuing, whatever, across and through the river, mounting the opposite bank, holding picnics, scrambling through the audience, driving cars and making arrests behind the crowd and splashing back through them across the river to the platforms again for dramatic dénouements.
The use of the river and the whole space is inspired and will probably make the experience one the children present (of whom there were many) will never forget.
Alan Bennett has focused on Toad’s story, as have most of the adapters of Grahame’s book, and though Mole’s rebellion against working class regime (spring cleaning) and Rat’s kindly initiation of Mole to the ways of the river get the show going, from very early on, the show belongs to Toad. Mole’s journey to social maturity, the Rat’s inner conflict and the role of the god Pan (other than as a theatrical presence) are excised. The Wild Wooders are given on-going villains’ roles to keep the story tense and exciting.
The show is played as a pantomime, with twee costumed animals all over the first few scenes and many later ones. Part of this, I am sure, is in the script, and in Alan Bennett’s pursuing this story as a metaphor for a romantic memory of England, though deliciously interspersed with ironic and shocking comments that bring us refreshingly into the present.
Toad, brilliantly played by Mark Hadlow, occupies our attention in all the right ways. He is a child (inside a grown-up), seeking attention and intensely vulnerable. Hadlow knows how to negotiate the balance between the essentially pantomime nature of the show and cod comedy, and finds a delightful connection with the audience.
Several other actors, including Gillian Bartram as the Washerwoman /Bargelady and Terry Regan as the Magistrate also strike this tricky balance. Others struggle and look and sound a bit ham.
Some of the staging and choreography clunks – as do the set pieces, though in an appropriate way: the caravan, the train, the barge etc are terrific examples of Julian Southgate’s genius, and are handled well by the cast.
The slow-motion fight for Toad Hall is the rightful climax of the evening, though as my 11-year-old nephew accurately noted, there were several different tempi among the fighters in the opening performance, not all dictated by the music.
However, if you have a child to take to a show, do not hesitate for a moment. The child will love this.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer