The moral tale at the heart of The Wind in the Willows is an important one for adults and children alike. Pushing your boundaries, stepping outside of your comfort zone, being open minded and kind to people are aspects of our life that everyone could work on, to be more like Mole. With such strong messages, the choice of The Wind in the Willows as the Rose Theatre’s Christmas show is very apt for the season that is upon us, a time when we can cherish materialistic objects and forget about those that may be in need of help around us.
With a cast of nearly 30 actors, this adaptation of The Wind in the Willows is most definitely a mammoth task for director and adaptor Ciaran McConville, having to deliver such a varied and inclusive performance for his cast. The adaptation is cleverly put together to appeal to all ages. With underlying jokes aimed at the adults, the story was easy to follow for the children, but as expected, the entire theatre broke into combined laughter for any of the ‘poot, poot’ jokes and particularly for the clever musical number of ‘deck the halls with poot poot’. Although I heard murmurs of the production being too dialogue heavy for younger children, I feel that regardless of whether they’d be able to understand the finer points of the nuanced script, the visual storytelling would have been straightforward enough to follow for the smaller ones.
The acting is of an incredibly high standard across the board. Each animal’s physicality is evident, with meticulous movements and effective choreography coordinated by Katy Stephens. The clear subtlety of the animals’ costume design by Peter Todd requires the actors to truly embody the animals they are portraying. Timothy Bird also does an outstanding job with his set design, creating an adaptable set of large yet intricate stairs and levels. The use of projections onto these to denote scene changes is innovative and fresh.
An outstanding performance – and I imagine a fun character to play – is Toad, portrayed by Jamie Baughan. Toad’s outrageously big and brash personality steals the show. The children of the theatre school are dedicated and intensely passionate throughout the entire performance, their energy fills the room and contributes to the entire experience.
Overall the production is very enjoyable, bringing the animals of the woodland to life and taking the audience on a very special journey into their turbulent lives. The kids in the audience seem engaged throughout the performance, appearing transfixed on the world they were a part of. I would definitely recommend this family orientated show, that would appeal to all ages.
The Wind in the Willows runs until January 3 at the Rose Theatre Kingston.
Photo: Mark Douet