July 3 – August 23
Wind in the Willows
Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre
Talk about going off with a bang; fortunately, the audience’s happy anticipation
was not marred by the intermittent church bells and even a racing commentary. Hard going for the cast to contend with, but of course they rose, splendidly as ever, to the occasion.
So where to begin? The consistenly witty dialogue, the superbly crafty staging – the remarkable players? What a pleasure to see pantomime stalwart, Adam Keast, as Ratty. What a surprise, (or perhaps not) that the scene stealing came mostly from Daniel Goode as a totally endearing Toad who earned applause with nearly every appearance.
Adults are not neglected by the way; some incongruous sophistication with the nice but naughtyThomas Richardson, whose Doris the Washerwoman gets tied up in knots, channelling 50 shades of something or other. Plus references to reality shows, and even the real world gets a look in, the dialogue taking on a life of its own with the evil woodland creatures representing corporate greed, Graham O’Mara being leader of the gang, the rapturously villainous Weasel.
A little quibble then, since not everybody may care for such a stance, nor the portrayal of the stoats; over eager beavers is one thing but Scouser scallies? That said, it made an interesting contrast with the menacing trio of gangster weasels and the oh so clever ferrets as chefs/ librarians/nerds.
And we must not forget the other mainstays of the story; Alix Ross is as delightful as Mole as Sarah Quist, wise Badger, is resourceful. Louise Kempton too, Ruby the Gaoler’s daughter, is feisty enough to face up to Toad, plus there were entertaining cameos from Jessica Carl (Woolpack the Judge) and Tom Connor (Coppitt the Copnstable)
And where to end? No space left even to give all the magnificent cast their due, or to make a start describing all the wonderfully clever touches which made the play so magically memorable: the jokes, the costumes, the music. Here’s just one: a vibrant vase of flowers which then becomes a glowing fire…OK, you really do need to be there and see for yourself.
One of these years, I may run out of superlatives for Chester Performs, but pretty sure all these wonderful ideas and enchanting productions never will. This city is known worldwide for its many splendours, and one of them must be a visit to Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre.