The edge of one of the lakes in the Botanical Gardens plays host to The Australian Shakespeare Company’s adaptation of The Wind in the Willows. Weaving a classic story with live music and comedy, Rabbit, Ratty, Mole, Badger, Otter and Portly must work together to liberate Toad Hall from the clutches of the wicked Weasel.
It’s no easy undertaking – battling an ever-heating-up morning with little-to-no shade cover, persistent helicopters intruding on scenes throughout the show, and generally keeping kids’ attention – but this ensemble equipped themselves well. With the aid of a solid script and great physical commitment (as well as ‘borrowing’ some of the picnics treats lying about), there wasn’t a moment that didn’t engage or entertain.
Mr Toad was played in terrific fashion by Ryan Hawke, and Lucia Schwerdt was dynamite as Portly. Keeping things moving with a cheeky sneer and laugh were Weasel and Rabbit played by Scott Mackenzie and Paul Morris respectively. Jolan Walker playing Otter, and Kaya Byrne playing Ratty were new additions to last year’s cast and did great work.
Along with Lucia, Chloe Bruer-Jones was the only other female presence in the troupe and was wonderful as mole. Also returning was Doru Surcel as Badger, whose concern for Mr Toad’s plight, as well as an arm-arcing concern for Toad’s relatives, proved as amusing as always.
Under a sweltering sun, The Wind in the Willows will certainly have you reaching for your sunscreen and water bottle, but also have you applauding a fun show that’s perfect family fare in a delightful setting.
The Wind in the Willows
Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, Birdwood Avenue, South Yarra
Performance: Thursday 4 January 2018 – 10.00am
Season continues to 28 January 2018
Information and Bookings: www.shakespeareaustralia.com.au
Image: Doru Surcel as Badger (supplied)
Review: David Collins