Home Arts & Lit Review: The Wind in the Willows @ Cygnet Theatre

Review: The Wind in the Willows @ Cygnet Theatre

"A fun and creatively put-together production that whisked me back to my childhood": Tamara Moule reviews The Pocketwatch Theatre Company's production of 'The Wind in the Willows'.

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Image: flickr.com

The classic children’s tale of The Wind in The Willows is brought to life in this engaging and lively performance by The Pocketwatch Theatre Company, with the story taken from start to finish in just over an hour. Including acoustic folk music played on the guitar, flute and violin, as well as songs, jokes and the use of uniquely made puppets – the like of which I’ve never seen before – this rendition of Kenneth Grahame’s tale proved to be both entertaining and enchanting.

After an introduction of acoustic folk as the audience filled the Cygnet Theatre’s small performance room, the murmured chatter of the audience was silenced by the unique framing device the company used to ease the viewer into Grahame’s story: four travellers at a train station have just heard that their train to London Paddington is delayed and tell a story to pass the time. Cue the introduction of Mole’s spring cleaning, and the audience is whisked into the world of the four main animal protagonists: Mole, Ratty, Toad and Badger, and notably all of the mischief that Toad gets up to in his quest for speed on the open road.

this rendition of Kenneth Grahame’s tale proved to be both entertaining and enchanting

The masterful use of the handcrafted puppets which were remarkably lifelike in their stances – Badger’s bushy eyebrows and tendency to put his paw in his pocket while lecturing Toad didn’t fail to make me smile – created an aura of enchantment for the young audience, and even the adults among the crowd could be heard chuckling at some of the comic asides and sketches that bring this short performance to life. Toad’s high-speed escapades were particularly amusing, crafted imaginatively and ending with a slow-motion rendition of puppets flying in all directions, and peals of laughter from the children in the audience. Short narrative asides made the story clear and concise, with Toad’s insistence on bursting into song during his highs and lows appreciated by the audience despite rebukes by his animal comrades.

Considering that the company is only made up of four actors doubling up as stage hands, the transitions were carried out gracefully, with several vintage-looking suitcases morphing first into toad hall, then a carriage, prison cell and motor-car. With the imaginative storytelling and music, it was easy to suspend your disbelief and be carried away into the story, and the young audience were definitely entranced.

The Pocketwatch Theatre Company is made up of four actors including ‘Jonty Depp’, a Johnny Depp lookalike, Claire Fisk and Elisabeth Burnette, a University of Exeter graduate who completed her BA in Drama in 2009. The company specialise in stage productions, themed shows and parties, and are touring their production of The Wind in the Willows throughout February 2018. Although it is aimed at a young audience aged 3+ (yes, I was probably the only one who turned up without a parent), this is a fun and creatively put-together production that whisked me back to my childhood for an hour on a cloudy Saturday afternoon.

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