REVIEW |The Wind In The Willows

2404 Credit Ben Fon

The Wind In The Willows

Timeless Magic Meets Modern Groove: A 37-Year Tradition Continues

Reviewed by Brendan Daynes

Nestled within the scenic embrace of Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens, The Australian Shakespeare Company’s presentation of The Wind in the Willows weaves a tradition that endures through the ages. Unfolding like a timeless tapestry of enchantment and joy, this rendition of Kenneth Grahame’s classic tale celebrates its 37th year on the outdoor stage, continuing to captivate audiences of all ages and establishing itself as a beloved summer tradition destined to be passed down through generations.

The natural backdrop of the gardens sweeps audiences into the delightful world of Ratty, Mole, Badger, Otter, Portly, and the irrepressible Mr. Toad. Guided by the skilled performances of Kevin Hopkins embodying the role of Badger, Christina Wells as Mole, Luke Lennox as Otter/Policeman/Judge, Paul Morris as Weasel, Wolfgang Reed as Head Chief Rabbit, and the young talents of youngsters, Alyssia Jade, Caleb Lee, Mason Litsos, or Rachel Segal as the adorable Portly (Otter’s child), the cast weaves a narrative that seamlessly intertwines nostalgia with a contemporary twist.

11148 credit Ben Fon

The production is not only a feast for the eyes but a symphony for the ears. The decision to infuse the classic storyline with hits from Daft Punk, Eminem, Lorde, AC/DC, and Moving Pictures showcases a stroke of brilliance. These well-loved tunes, complemented by subtly adjusted lyrics, inject a vibrant contemporary energy into the tale, ensuring its resonance with today’s diverse audiences. This modern touch not only elevates the entertainment value for both the young and old but also constructs a delightful bridge across generations.

What truly makes this production a classic is the ability to cater to a diverse audience. It’s not merely a children’s play; it’s a multigenerational experience. The children in the audience are enraptured by the madcap antics of the characters, especially during the interactive moments orchestrated by the charismatic Head Chief Rabbit. His transformative ability to turn the audience into rabbits, complete with waggling ears and wiggling noses, is a masterclass in audience engagement. The kids laugh and howl, fully immersed in the whimsical world unfolding before them.

However, the production doesn’t neglect the adults. Head Chief Rabbit, along with the mischievous Weasel, provide the much-needed comic relief that has the grown-ups laughing out loud. The clever incorporation of humour that appeals to all ages is a testament to the skilful direction by Glenn Elston. The adult audience is not merely accompanying their children; they are active participants, enjoying every moment as much as the little ones.

The visual spectacle is heightened by the fantastic costumes and makeup, which transport the audience to the heart of the riverbank. Each character is brought to life with meticulous attention to detail, enhancing the magical atmosphere of the play. From the attire of Mr. Toad to the endearing Otter Portly, lost in the Wild Wood, the visual elements contribute to the overall enchantment of the performance.

The outdoor setting in the Royal Botanic Gardens adds an extra layer of magic. The open air, the rustling leaves, and the occasional chorus of birds create an immersive environment that transcends the traditional confines of a theatre.

The Wind in the Willows is a masterful blend of tradition and modernity. It’s a testament to the enduring appeal of Kenneth Grahame’s timeless story, skilfuly adapted to resonate with contemporary audiences. The cast’s performances, the infusion of modern musical hits, the impeccable costumes, and the enchanting outdoor setting converge to create a theatrical experience that is, in a word, magical

The Wind in the Willows by The Australian Shakespeare Company is playing at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Melbourne Gardens, and at The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney – Near the Main Pond in Sydney, until January 28, 2024. For more information or to purchase tickets please visit

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