Playing for over 30 years, the Australian Shakespeare Company returns to the Royal Botanical Gardens with their superb family classic, The Wind in the Willows. Have seen this group over a few summers, January 2020 appears to have the most changes to the cast from last year.
However, a change in personnel did not mean any drop in quality. Once again, as the actors do battle with weasels, the heat, and the noise from low-flying aircraft, they succeed in producing an outstanding show. But, don’t take an adult’s word for it – David Collins (41 years old)
Having last seen The Wind in the Willows when I was seven, I only vaguely remembered the story, so was looking forward to seeing it again. Despite the heat and loud helicopters from the start, the actors’ projection and their overall performances were very good.
With its many musical numbers, lively characters and classic pantomime features, this experience for children is not one to forget. The Head Chief Rabbit, played by Callum O’Malley, led much of show, weaving the story together though song and interactions with the audience. Alongside Callum, we were fortunate to have understudy Amy Fortnum play the Weasel, whose bold facial expressions and comedic timing were a standout.
Isaac Broadbent did well in the role of Ratty and was a very likeable character. The relationship between Ratty and the very enthusiastic (not-to-mention talented violinist) Mole, played by Chloe Bruer-Jones, was a sweet friendship. Badger, played by Chris Asimos, was also memorable – not only through his use of voice and song, but also because he walked out into the audience searching for a female badger and ended up choosing my mum.
Apart from some questionable parenting skills, Otter, played by Alex Cooper, was a likeable character. His daughter, Portly, played by Cierra Shook had a loud and confident voice and later displayed some incredible acrobatic skills. Lachlan Watts did a good job as both Policeman and the Judge. Last but not least, Mr. Toad, played excellently by Ryan Hawke, was a self-centered, lively and hilarious part of the story. Like Badger, Mr. Toad also took a fancy to my mum.
When the characters split off into groups, my sister found this to be a stressful moment as she didn’t want to miss out on anything so decided to stay put. Yet this was not the case for many of the other children there.
All in all, this was a classic, adventurous story full of with live music, comedy and fun. Our friends – the Head Chief Rabbit, Ratty, Mole, Badger, Otter, Portly, and Mr. Toad – must work together to defeat the sly Weasel, and what resulted was an extremely enjoyable show under the morning sun (and the occasional helicopter). – Jessica Sterle (14-years-old)
The Wind in the Willows
Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, Birdwood Avenue, South Yarra
Performance: Saturday 25 January 2020 – 10.00am
Season has ended
Image: Australian Shakespeare Company presents The Wind in the Willows (supplied)
Review: David Collins with Jessica Sterle