The Mercury Theatre’s latest home-grown show, Wind in the Willows, is perhaps their most inventive production yet thanks to a highly imaginative set concentrated around scaffolding, simple hanging lights and innovative piles of old rubbish, used as props by the multi-talented cast, who also double up as the show’s orchestra.
Inspired by Kenneth Grahame’s wonderful children’s novel and directed by Matthew Cullum, Wind in the Willows takes us on a journey through the British countryside with four friends: Badger (played by Kate Adams), Mole (played by Sam Pay), Water-rat (played by Pete Ashmore) and, of course, the outlandish Toad (played by Dale Superville) who takes centre stage with his motoring antics and unruly behaviour. Slap-stick comedy and an energetic pace ensues to keep viewers enthralled while Mercury-favourite Dale Superville does a stellar job as the charismatic Toad, tickling the funny bone of young and old alike. Christopher Hogben, who plays Wild Wooder, is convincingly mischievous, while Simon Spencer-Hyde is hilarious as a number of characters.
Clever characterisation is achieved through simple costumes, without the need for any impromptu animal noises or actions, while the staging of Toad’s prison cell is portrayed through a collection of well arranged mops, sticks and fishing rods, and his horse-drawn caravan created with two chairs and a shopping trolley, proving imagination really knows no bounds in this musical play.
The cheerful score is lively, though voices are lost under the sheer noise of the instruments and the dancing is a little weak, though the staging and make-shift instruments make up for it, with clouds of confetti blown about by wind machines and old boxes used as drums.
The show delivers a real sense of community through the friendship and unity of Grahame’s beloved characters, and there is something very nostalgic about its story, starting with a simple boat ride along the riverbank and culminating in a ferocious taming of the devious Wild Wooder, before a happy ending is inevitably met.
This charming adaption of Wind in the Willows plays at Colchester’s Mercury Theatre until 21st August and is a testament to Grahame’s timeless tale, reimagined with a fresh feel that is well worth going to see.
Images: Darren Bell