Thursday, 30 May 2019

'In The Willows'

Kenneth Graham's much-loved children's story The Wind In The Willows gets the Hamilton treatment in this brand new, sparky production by Metta Theatre: In The Willows. Currently on show at Bristol Old Vic, this is a really fun, really engaging new musical aimed at the whole family. 

Loosely based on the original Kenneth Graham story, socially awkward Mole (Victoria Boyce) is new at The Willows comprehensive school and is taken under the wing/paw of streetwise Rattie (Zara MacIntosh) in kindly Badger's class (Clive Rowe). But there's a disruptive influence from attention-seeking, rule-bending Toad (Harry Jardine) - who now rides a motorbike rather than a motorcar, poop poop - and a sinister presence from the break-dancing weasel gang, led by Chief Weasel (Bradley Charles). There are references to the book via the River Bank club, the rough WildWood Estate and the Weasels overtaking Toad Hall, but the most charming nod to the original book (where Toad is rescued from prison in the guise of a washerwoman) is when Toad is rescued from a juvenile detention centre via a washing machine repairer!

In The Willows is a lot of fun and puts across its messages in a very approachable manner. We are reminded of right vs wrong and of loyalty to our friends, but it is not rammed down our throats. We are told to look out for our friends and be welcoming to all, but it is not overdone. And the inclusion of a sign language interpreter, as well as the frequent inclusion of signing done by the cast as part of their natural speech, is a great way of showing how easy it is to make theatre naturally inclusive. 

PS: An extra special shout out to the delightfully camp Duck (Seann Miley Moore from The X Factor), who is an absolute pleasure to watch. 

In The Willows is performed at Bristol Old Vic until Saturday 1 June. Click here for more information and to book tickets. 

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