Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Wind In The Willows

AFTER a hugely successful run of Goldilocks And The Three Endings last year, theatre company Sixteenfeet Productions is set to return to South London this summer with its unique brand of open-air theatre.
The Walled Garden in Brockwell Park is to become the stage for Wind In The Willows, an evergreen classic by Kenneth Grahame adapted by Brixton-based writer Andy Walsh with original music by Guy Holden.
The production will run at Brockwell Park from Saturday until August 2 before heading off to the Rose Garden at Morden Hall Park between August 7 and 10 and then finally to Streatham Rookery between August 13 and 16.
The Lambeth-based theatre company has been bringing its summer promenade productions to venues in South London for the past five years. As in previous years this performance features original music, which is played live by the six-strong cast of actor-musicians.
For Andy it was a chance to bring this quintessentially English tale to life for modern audiences.
"It's a beautiful story and one I grew up with as a child and loved so I was really keen to adapt it for this year's show," he says.
"It's got everything you need in a story - adventure, loyalty, great characters and is full of sentiment. It is also a story that really lends itself to an outdoor production so it totally fitted the bill.
"It's been a joy to do and we've had a lot of fun getting it ready for production."
As in the original story, the audience will get to meet the impulsive Toad, the good-natured Mole, the wise Ratty and the reclusive Badger and follow them and their adventures around the garden.
However, adapting their story presented a few minor challenges for Andy and the team.
"Some of the language, dialogue and the references in the original are of their time so I've adapted it a bit and given it a bit of a contemporary feel with a few tweaks here and there," says Andy.
"However, I wanted to stay as true to the story as I could so those who have grown up with it like I did will recognise it.
"Also the book is set in different locations and over many months but this play had to be distilled into a performance lasting an hour.
"Not only that, this is a promenade production so each scene is set in a different part of the garden and the audience follows the characters around.
"It's very much theatre without barriers which is great and the audience will be within touching distance of the characters. They will see them zipping about and through the audience so it will be really exciting and a lot of fun.
"The outdoor spaces we are performing in are some of the most beautiful places and really lend themselves to these kind of performances," he adds.
"What's great is that for those who may not have been to the theatre before or who are a bit intimidated by it, it's a great introduction.
"It's also a lovely family production so all ages can enjoy it and will get different things out of it and it's the right length to bring kids along to.
"It's a lovely atmosphere too and each year people bring picnics to have either before or after the show."
Of course the main challenge will be the weather but Andy says they will be able to deal with the the vagaries of the English weather.
"We are all doing sun dances in a bid to make sure this glorious weather will continue!" he laughs.

Wind In The Willows is on at Brockwell Park from Saturday, July 25 until Sunday, August 2, the Rose Garden at Morden Hall Park between Friday, August 7 and Monday, August 10 and Streatham Rookery between Thursday, August 13 and Sunday, August 16. Call 07958 448690 or visit www.sixteenfeet.co.uk to book tickets or for full listings.

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