Otis Elston saw his first production of The Wind in the Willows at the tender age of one, and after performing, stage managing and assistant directing for twenty years, this summer he will direct the interactive outdoor show for the first time. Now in it’s 28th year, The Wind in the Willows will once again transform the heart of the Royal Botanic Gardens from 27 December 2014.
Elston will direct a troupe of energetic actors as they bring to life the iconic characters of Ratty, Mole, Badger, Otter, Portly and, of course, Mr Toad, as they return to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne this summer, bringing to life Glenn Elston’s adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s immortal story of life on the riverbank.
Elston might have had the most enviable childhood many kids could ever think of. Growing up in an outdoor adventure surrounded by colourful sets, madcap characters in outlandish costumes, he has also been given a few hard-won opportunities to perform with the company.
After his first role as Portly the baby otter in The Wind in the Willows, Otis has played Prince Richard in Richard III, Orsino in Twelfth Night, Benedict in Much Ado About Nothing, and most recently Lysander in the Australian Shakespeare Company’s 25th anniversary production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
“These shows are like Christmas. They’re always a part of my summer, they can be stressful, but they’re a family tradition. I haven’t known a year when I wasn’t a part of one.” says 21 year old Elston, who this year graduated with a film degree from Swinburne University and has directed several short films.
Elston has toured to Australia including remote areas of Northern Queensland, NT, and even to Thursday Island with his father Glenn Elston’s Shakespeare productions, toured to Scotland stage managing for The Jungle Book, and travelled almost every year since 2002 to the remote sacred site of Beswick Falls for the Australian Shakespeare Company’s Walking with Spirits corroborree coproduction with Djilpin Arts.
The Wind in the Willows is the longest running show of all; an inventive outdoor theatre production delivering music, adventure and laughs. There is fun for young and old as the Head Chief Rabbit transforms the audience into rabbits with a waggle of the ears and a wiggle of the nose.
The young ‘rabbits’ are encouraged to get involved in the action, and are given every opportunity to scream out loud, sing along and become part of the adventure. With laughs and surprises for children and adults, this is interactive theatre at its best.
“I’ve witnessed Willows come to life under a variety of directors, my dad (Glenn Elston) one of them. I’m very excited to bring the show together myself this year, and we have some new faces to make things really interesting this time round,” adds Elston.
The Wind in the Willows has become a national treasure, playing to delighted audiences in the gardens of Sydney, Adelaide and Perth. Celebrating 28 years in the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, it is Australia’s best-loved affordable family entertainment, so pack a picnic, pack the kids and join in the fun!
The Wind in the Willows
Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne (enter via Gate F on Birdwood Avenue)
Season: 27 December 2014 – 24 January 2015
Bookings: 136 100 or online at: www.ticketmaster.com.au
For more information, visit: www.shakespeareaustralia.com.au for details.
Image: Otis Elston – courtesy of Australian Shakespeare Company