Being a trained actress myself and having the knowledge of what energy goes into performing gives me a different perspective on theatre performances I think. I suppose it can make me highly critical; I can see where people should be on stage, where they should be projecting their voice and I scrutinise the everything from set design and props to the way an actor may fidget on stage when not speaking. Yet it also gives me a great insight into how the play was managed and I have an appreciation for it that maybe a non performer wouldn’t? Whatever it is that I am seeing however I am always appreciative to go to the theatre and be a part of a production, be it good, bad or nothing much at all really. The reason I love to go is because the theatre holds a certain magic and make believe that’s just not present in television or film. An actor can’t fluff and re do his lines for another take so he has adrenalin that is rubbed off on the audience. In our youth we play make believe games. As an adult the theatre is the closest you’ll get to that. So for a child, the theatre is an extension of their already over flowing imagination and a way to bring to life stories and capture something truly special for their ever expanding minds. I think theatre should be a part of every child’s life because so much can be learned and so much joy can come out of it but choosing the right one could be difficult. I’m not sure I know many little ones who would enjoy The Mousetrap or too many toddlers that could endure a West End performance no matter what the genre so it was wonderful yesterday when I found a children’s play that captures all the right aspects for our little ones. Wind in the Willows by Sixteen Feet Productions is being performed in the Walled Garden of Brockwell Park from Saturday 23rd July to 7th August and I’m going to tell you why, if you have children, you should be planning on making a trip to watch it!
The play starts with the audience sitting on picnic rugs (provided) in the park next to the Walled Garden. The multi talented Ann-Marie Piazza who plays many roles in the production and other musicians weave their way through the on lookers humming and playing instruments to introduce us to the story and familiar characters we probably all remember from writer Kenneth Graham’s original book. This adaption is delightful and as Mole and Ratty take us from the park into the Walled Garden for the next part of the story it starts to really take flight. Wind in the Willows is a magical story and should be performed with a fitting back drop. If it were portrayed on a stage I don’t think it would generate the kind of excitement my ten year old sister and 18 month old daughter felt yesterday and the Walled Garden is just perfect. What’s really fantastic, as you are encouraged to follow the actors around their set is that you feel a part of the production indeed at many points the audience are invited to participate and referred to as friends. There are many places to stand or sit and benches for little ones to climb on and sneak a peak over hedges. This is not your ordinary run of the mill sit in your seat theatre and it’s all the better for it. My daughter, being 18 months would find being in one place for an hour simply impossible, she would make a fuss and for that reason it wouldn’t be productive to take her to the theatre for the sake of the other audience members, yet with this, each scene is just about the right time for her before we’re on the move again. If you can find a way of making theatre open for children as young as possible to enjoy then that can only be a good thing and they’ve certainly managed it with this format.
All the actors are top notch, brilliantly engaging and needing no fancy costumes to ensure we know exactly who they are. Cherrelle Skeete as Mole has a super singing voice and Morgan Philpott plays a lovely Ratty but the clear star of the show is Anthony Glennon as Toad! It would seem obvious to presume Toad would be the clear out shiner but I think it’s a role that could easily be done badly and is perhaps taken for granted when it is good and Anthony Glennon is really, really good! The only criticism I would have is that perhaps Ratty turns his back on the audience too many times and it makes it difficult to hear his otherwise very clear diction. The performers do not have radio mics which is a good thing, I can’t bear hearing them and I hate to perform with one myself but they do have to be careful not to lose their voices, especially when in an open air environment.
With regard to the set I was pleased to see that the company used the natural surrounding and didn’t have too much fuss with either that or the props but what props they did have were top quality and engaging. The motor car in particular was just superb and when it crashed and went up in a puff of smoke my little girl shouted ‘Oh oh car!’ so engaged was she and believe me, it’s hard to capture the attention of an 18 month old girl half an hour into a performance. Sixteen Productions, from the writer Andrew S. Walsh, Director Jenny Lee and all the cast and crew in between have done very well indeed with the whole production and I can’t recommend it enough! We saw the dress rehearsal and it was as slick as a performance as I would expect from one that has already got well into their run so a big round of applause from us!
Tickets range between £6 and £10 and can be bought from their box office. See the listing for more information.