Saturday, 4 January 2014

Review - Wind in the Willows at The Duchess Theatre

Every year one of my friends gets a gang of merry ladies and gents together and arranges drinks and books up a show (rather organised this one!). Last night was the first time I actually managed to attend the occasion and it was a lovely eve of entertainment and cocktails. 

We started the eve at Henry's in Covent Garden; a lovely pre-theatre option for drinks and nibbles. Not too many tourists and a decent mojito selection :). I sampled the Raspberry & Vanilla Mojito (the bartender re-made it twice after sampling the first one and deeming it sub-standard. The final result was rather yummylicious). 

After that we strolled down to The Duchess Theatre, the smallest show-house of it's kind in London, for an evening of The Wind in the Willows. 

Having read through, and been read, the story (originally published in 1908) repeatedly as a child I was certain my memory would be jogged fairly quickly. Toad and his fast reckless driving in his red new car. His friends who try to talk some sense into him; Badger, Mole and Rat. The peaceful river bank and the picnics and rowing boats, and all the dramatics our friendly creatures have to face in the Wild Wood. 

But the details were still a blur as I sat down to watch the story come to life again in Director and Choreographer Will Tuckett's vision. 

To be honest I had expected a children's story playing out on stage, something obvious and cute and film-like. This, however, was more of an adult-audience version. Song and a beautiful composition guided the dancers around the stage in simple but effective costumes representing the animals they portrayed. 

The narrator in the story (and author) Kenneth Grahame is brought to life by the brilliant Tony Robinson. With his kind voice, sat in his dusty attic, he invites us to take a journey into the fantastical world of the creatures by the river and in the woods. Introducing his friends one by one he sees us through it all while offering clarity and detail to the dancers' stories. He is the glue that binds it all together. 

It was a beautiful performance full of fantasy, dance, charm, sweetness, stories of friendships and the changing of the seasons. Robinson's take on Grahame's narration took the audience back to childhood while he told us a bedtime story, painting the world he imagined clear enough for us to see. 

A charming piece it was, and I would recommend it for anyone who appreciates the kind of show that mixes artsy interpretation and contemporary presentation with classic stories and memories of childhood. 

Again, however, while a children's story I remain unsure how a younger (under 14-ish) child would take to it. It is clear enough to follow but there are a lot of elements that are more classically beautiful and artsy than magical and Disney-esque if you will. It's the adult version, without any NC content (but I could imagine some kids might be yawning a bit at times if they lost track of the story). 


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