The Wind In The Willows
Following a successful regional tour of Charlotte’s Web, RAVA Productions has once again reimagined classic children’s fiction with a delightful production of The Wind in the Willows.
With a troupe of four seasoned performers and bright but minimal sets and costumes, this show was enjoyable in its simplicity and will translate well into a regional tour, as intended.
The casting was excellent and the actors, with the ease of experience and natural comic timing, captured the attention of their young audience from the first scene through to the conclusion of the 50-minute performance.
As with most children’s theatre, panto-like participation was encouraged and predictably, it ended with a rousing sing-a-long that youngsters will undoubtedly repeat for days afterwards.
Angela Ponting opened the show and convincingly portrayed the sweet, wide-eyed innocence of Mole. She elicited lots of giggles with her reactions to the outrageous antics of Ratty (Jacob Watton) and Toad (Harrison Paroz). Angela’s Washerwoman’s Daughter and Old Gentleman were equally fun.
Michael Escober flitted between the characters of Otter, Badger and Policeman smoothly, and with his thick accents and slap-stick expressions, brought a cartoonish joie de vivre to the production.
Harrison Paroz embraced the unstable antics of car-obsessed Toad with great aplomb and stole the hearts of the audience with some memorable tantrums and “poop-poops”, not to mention his silly duck song and dance.
Lastly, Jacob Watton commanded the stage as Ratty, the Judge and the Train Driver. His physical comedy and characterisation were brilliant and you couldn’t wait for him to reappear on stage for his next scene.
Set design (Kerry Saul and Alison Vallette) was simple and effective, using only a framed screen and projector (original images by Charlotte Fountain AV content by Ruth Atkinson and Ralph Atkinson) and brightly-coloured foam blocks. These blocks were cleverly stacked by the characters in different formations to portray specific objects (train, car, dam, etc) and despite their abstraction, the children in the audience had no difficulty understanding what they represented.
Costuming (Alison Vallette and Debra Nairn) was stylised and designed for ease of quick changes. Ratty’s skin-tight boating outfit was a little risqué but despite this, the costumes suited the characters and looked great.
In a time when classic children’s fiction is under close scrutiny, Creative Producer Ruth Atkinson and Director Alison Vallette have enabled The Wind in the Willows to be discovered by a new generation and deserve kudos for delivering a positive message about friendship and responsibility.