Wind in the Willows

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Red Rose Chain Theatre Company have a reputation for excellent and creative theatre and this is no exception.

Friends Ratty, Moley and Badger are reflecting on the fact that their insufferable, over-enthusiastic snobby friend Toad has gone to prison for 20 years! However, he manages to escape with the help of a washer woman and on Toad’s return he finds the Wild Wooders have taken over his home, so the friends devise a plan to get them out.

This production is done with only three actors, and very cleverly. The format is mainly recounting what has happened, which gives a different twist to a linear storyline, and adds a different dimension as the recounting is acted out for us the audience in the most creative, entertaining and fun way. Mainly using household items as props, but more on that later.

We learn how Ratty befriended Moley – he helped him cross the river. This re-enactment of Ratty and Moley in a boat made from the kitchen table with a mop and broom for oars scooting across the space was hilarious. Every scene was like this, for example, to make the train noise the drawers of the kitchen table were pulled in and out rhythmically to mimic the clickety clack.

The set was amazing, so imaginative, starting as the internal homes of the characters, it was able to portray every part of the story, even a barge, and nearly every bit of moving furniture was used for something for example the chair transformed into the car Toad stole. The cast were responsible for moving the props and furniture and as it was as though they wanted to tell us the story as best they could so used whatever they had to spark our imaginations and enhance the story they were telling –  it was ingenious and so much fun.

Three actors and four main characters, meant the all doubled up on any sub characters, however Matt Penson played both Badger and Toad in the most incredible way. Badger is an eastender-gangster type in his huge black and white fur coat and plump Toad had his yellow waistcoat and britches, is an overly posh snob. Swapping between the two was very smooth and lots of fun to watch, particularly when they needed to be on stage at the same time. The pantry was a great idea to quickly swap out the parts and there was a hilarious bathroom scene.

Along with Darren Latham as Ratty and Rei Mordue as Moley these three actors are fantastic. They portrayed their characters from the depths of their souls. They were able to include so many nuances of their character through their whole bodies and their facial expressions were charming. Their collective energies and natural charisma made the whole show an utter delight to watch.

As well as exceptionally creative, each scene was funny, full of joy, hilarious and enchanting . Although it wasn’t a traditional panto with the audience shouting ‘he’s behind you’ etc, there was still plenty of participation and interaction and a few in the front row were definitely required to participate!

It’s a fabulous family show.

This review appeared on GrapevineLIVE

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