THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
adapted by Gari Jones from the novel by Kenneth Grahame.
The North Wall South Parade OX2 7JN To 10 January 2015.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 01865 766266.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 27 December.
Lively, inventive but with creating a fashion victim.
It’s Re-Creation theatre company with Gari Jones’ free-wheeling adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 novel, beginning with one of those always-unconvincing set-ups where a group of people secretly enter a house, find a copy of the novel and, when one starts reading, all seem to know it intimately.
But these modern characters with their torches set the tone for quick changes and simple staging devices and give a context for seeing the story through young modern minds. Like Toad’s driving it can be exhilarating but leads to some car-crash moments. Individual performances are all memorable and give depth to the characters, whevver Clare Humphrey’s urban Black yoofspeekin’ Weasel, innit, or Georgina Strawson’s Tourette’s-ish Rat, her jigging physicality matching Ratty’s busy efficiency.
Will Norris has a neat condescension as Toad, his moments of intended reform never reaching to the level where every new motorised noise excites him. The idea that Chief Weasel Rhys King (no weasel could look or sound more weaselly) deliberately engineers his way into Toad Hall by encouraging Toad to pile-up debts buying new vehicles is an interesting class point.
Finest of all in this fine company (including four teenage actors unfairly uncredited in the programme) is Claire Andreadis as Mole (it’s only when she changes in view from the fair-haired, self-reliant jailer’s daughter to her animal character that it’s possible to realise it’s the same actor). Hidden behind goggly glasses and in a covering headband, this ever-willing Mole is keen to learn, always helpful, while wanting to find out more about the world.
But Badger’s brought down to size, short-sightedness and deafness encouraging an aggressive manner towards others which replaces his usual contemplative wisdom. Thomas Richardson does well with the conception, but his costume’s the stuff (and stuffing) of nightmares, its inelegantly protuberant top and exiguous nether regions making the production something of a badger cull.
The fight for Toad Hall is comically exciting, while the clash of early 20th and 21st-century elements makes this Wind a fresh breeze, even if a tendency to indulge comic and musical moments keeps it from becoming definitive for the modern age
Mole: Claire Andreadis.
Weasel/Barge Woman/Hedgehog/Nessie: Clare Humphrey.
Chief Weasel/Newt/Charles/Gaoler: Rhys King.
Toad: Will Norris.
Badger: Thomas Richardson.
Ratty: Georgina Strawson.
Director: Gari Jones.
Designer: Ryan Dawson Laight.
Lighting: Ashley Bale.
Sound: Matt Eaton.
Movement: Vanessa Cook.
Animator: Mark Charlton.
Fight director: Philip d’Orléans.
Assistant director: Dave Burn.
Associate lighting: John Welton.