Hijinks abound in The Australian Shakespeare Company’s fun-filled treat The Wind in the Willows at the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Populated by favourites from British novelist Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 book, families on picnic rugs are given much to smile about during the 90-minute show without interval, set in magnificent surrounds.
Photos by Ben Fon
The first location is by the lake and the second only a few hundred metres away, where a toy castle – which bears the name of its resident – has been set up.
The Wind in the Willows is interactive, with audience participation encouraged.
The Head Chief Rabbit, dressed in white tails, red suspenders and red bow tie, and sporting large, white feathery ears anoints each of us as bunnies.
We are asked to play along as the adventure unfolds.
That means not only clapping in appreciation of the tomfoolery and jokes that abound, and the melodic ditties that sprinkle the offering from the talented cast.
We are talked into waggling our ears and wiggling our noses.
In the second act, children are led down the garden path – literally – Pied Piper style. It’s great to watch the excitement on their faces.
Act I establishes all but two of the characters – I already mentioned Rabbit, but there is also Weazel, Mole, Rat, Otter, Badger, Toad and Portly (Otter’s daughter).
Importantly, all project their voices well in a grassed, outdoor environment, competing as they do with helicopters and light aircraft that fly overhead.
The costumes are creative, colourful and evocative, while the make-up cries “look at me”.
There is no doubt these add greatly to the flavour of the piece.
Without spilling all the plot secrets, the troupe pays a visit to Toad at Toad Hall.
He’s come up with the next big thing, only an unexpected tearaway arrival steals his thunder.
Before this is over, Toad will face a day of reckoning.
As that is going down, Weazel is living up to his name, enacting a nefarious plan.
Of course, all works out … just as it should, in keeping with the family-friendly nature of the presentation.
The Australian Shakespeare Company’s The Wind in the Willows is playing at the Royal Botanic Gardens (entry via gate F) until 30th January, 2022.
You can purchase tickets from $25 at shakespeareaustralia.com.au or via Ticketmaster.