The Wind in the Willows
Mercury Theatre Colchester.
6th August 2016
In this Olympic year, the Mercury Theatre takes gold with another inspired, hugely enjoyable summer family show. Following last year’s terrific James and the Giant Peach, director Matthew Cullum returns to weave his magic with an exceptional cast of actors and musicians. From the laid back, languid harmonica and slow awakening of the riverside creatures at the beginning, to a truly inspiring community dance at the end, this show is a delight for anyone of any age!
The source material, Willis Hall’s popular adaptation, has been gently woven to create an adventure that does not betray the book’s storyline, but makes it shine anew, introducing a new generation to the tale of Toad and his friends and their nemesis the Wild Wooder. And the ensemble is faultless, songs and fine character acting engaging even the youngest audience members. Audience favourite Dale Superville, star of recent Mercury Pantomime’s, is a naughty, camp, energetic Toad, delighting with his cheekiness and arrogance, and finding a superb diva in a hilarious Les Miserable inspired send up before the interval. Pete Ashmore is spell binding as wise and friendly Water- Rat, and Sam Pay is a wonderful, muscular Northern Mole, a gentle giant of a character. Simon Spencer Hyde revels in his multi rolling, especially as a hilarious Judge R. De Veering, and Kate Adams brings the right amount of authority to Badger, an adult you really should listen to! Louisa Beadel is a hoot as Enid, maid of Toad Hall, and Christopher Hogben a slippery, threatening Wild Wooder, keeping the threat on just the right side of frightening for the young ones to enjoy and musical director Barnaby Southgate captures the atmosphere of each scene.
The music, composed by Cameron Mackintosh Resident Composer Rebecca Applin, is a joyful mix of folk and bluegrass, which is layered perfectly between the text and the atmospheric design by Katie Sykes. Matthew Cullum’s direction allows imaginations to run wild, a shopping trolley becomes a horse, a spade a fish, a bugle a pistol, without ever sacrificing the story- the key to this production’s success is in its story telling. The Mercury may now have a tradition on its hands with its summer shows. In an inspired move, the younger members of the audience are invited up on the stage at the end to dance with the cast while the rest of the audience clap. Future theatre makes are born in moments like this! A solid gold summer success!
Until 21st August.