Wind in the Willows
The Blurb Magazine
Review by the Editor, January 11, 2015
In amongst the commercial franchise concerts, animatronic dinosaurs and skivvy-wearing singers and dancers, some gems of good old fashioned theatrical storytelling remain.
La Boite keeps this flame alive with its current show, Wind in the Willows, a vivid story-time session with Ratty, Mole, Badger and Mr Toad.
Re-imagined and condensed for the stage by Maxine Mellor and directed by Kat Henry, Wind in the Willows features Play School’s (and other Australian film and television productions) Luke Carroll. Carroll combines physical theatre techniques, strategic props and story-time style voices to bring four of the beloved characters to life from Kenneth Grahame’s children’s classic.
Continuing La Boite’s reputation for creative staging in their intimate space, the cottage style set is reminiscent of imaginative role play for the preschool age group. Quilted fabrics are strategically draped over ‘islands’ that become various locations throughout the story. The quilts later turn into costumes and props, while surprises are stowed under the set and throughout the theatre. Ratty’s boat is particularly worth a mention – its simple construction is so effective and invites plenty of imagination from the audience. Likewise, the invocation of Mr Toad’s car(s) and the moon are genius.
Carroll leaps, crawls and races around these landmarks with amazing energy – our front row seats afforded us a close up view of just how hard he was working to maintain the attention of the youngsters and their parents. I’m not usually a fan of audience participation, but the invitation from Carroll to help with sound effects and other lively elements of the show is gentle and collaborative. The storytelling works on multiple levels, with the characters and voices entertaining children, while the scripting, staging and Carroll’s quick wit to react with audience members who are not yet familiar with theatre etiquette is also very amusing for adults. More than one parent was seen to be having a bit more fun than their child. Foyer and courtyard entertainment was also well organised at our performance, with balloon animals, dress ups and activity books available to amuse fidgety small people.
La Boite has advertised this production as suitable for ages 4 to 12. At exactly one-hour duration, this stretches the attention span of the younger end of this audience. A few junior hecklers were present in our show, which added to the amusement of the adults, but did pull focus from the stage. Children who have started school would be better equipped to handle sitting still for the full show, and appreciate the staging and props a little more.
Wind in the Willows is an excellent outing for the school holidays and a welcome alternative to dancing princesses, spangly lycra and six-foot tall talking mice. Ratty not included, of course.
The Wind in the Willows World Premiere – La Boite
Review by Bobbi-Lea Dionysius, January 9th, 2015
La Boite managed to capture the hearts and imaginations of not only the little badgers who came to see the world premiere of Wind in the Willows, but also the bigger badgers who brought them along.
Kenneth Graham’s classic book was adapted for the stage by Maxine Mellor as a one-man show, starring Luke Carroll, and follows the adventures of four woodland friends who learn the value of friendship along the way.
Carroll’s background as a presenter on Playschool served him well in this highly physical kids show. Being a one-man show, Carroll was on stage the entire time (except for a few moments where he hid behind the stage), and played the narrator, as well as embodying the four main characters (Mole, Ratty, Badger, and Mr. Toad); all with distinct personalities and physical traits. He was fun, playful, full of life, and knew how to work the crowd. He certainly won me over – I wasn’t expecting to have as much fun as I did.
Director Kat Henry catered well for a children’s audience and used the entire theatre as the stage; Carroll ran through the audience and used the aisles as he set about on his adventures. There were also a couple of songs added in for variety and audience participation which was quite unique and extra fun – even the adults got in on it. In fact, by the sound of the giggles and laughter throughout the show, it sounded like the adults were having just as much fun as the kids. Especially when the kids would randomly call out things or ask questions (quite loudly) to their parents; this added an unexpected layer of humour to the show. Carroll skilfully took all this in his stride and even answered the kids or would work in any loud, unexpected noises into the show.
And the after party… Seriously, the kids show after parties at La Boite are better than the adult ones. There’s face painting, balloon making, popcorn, and cupcakes. There was also a vintage car for the kids to sit in, and even the programme doubled as an activity fun book.
I would highly recommend The Wind in the Willows as a great show for the holidays which the whole family can enjoy.
The Wind in the Willows is playing at the La Boite Theatre till Jan 17.