The Wind In The Willows is Bank Holiday fun in Shoreham
Artistic director Matthew Emeny, who is also one of the performers, promises the children will love it – and so too will their parents with all the happy memories it will evoke of their own childhood reading of the much-loved classic.
He is inviting you to join Mole, Ratty and Badger in a floor-stomping, live music, hilarious new version of the woodland adventure as they save Toad and his shiny new motor car from deep trouble.
“It’s laced with some great folk rock tunes and perfect for the modern-day audience”, he says.
“We were commissioned to do it by an organisation called Stage One, to develop a new version of The Wind In The Willows.
“I think they want to help develop new commercial theatre producers, and they are trying to support people outside London. I am based in Bath, and I pitched this to them as a possible way of making theatre that would be popular because The Wind In The Willows is a story that so many people would know.
“I was in the show in 2019 in London when it was done as a dining experience. It was great to see how much the audience loved it. I always wanted to tour the show in a form that children would love. We are all actor-musicians. We all play different instruments. I have put a band together and through our music we then tell the story of The Wind In The Willows.
“What is really nice is that obviously it is a great story for younger children, but there is also a legacy attached to it for the adults who will know the story from when they were children. What I love is how you can create an older audience of big kids! That’s the spin we are putting on it. It is about trying to sprout in older people their own memories of having enjoyed the story as children.”
Plus of course, the piece has got so many great messages of its own.
“There are so many messages, but I suppose the big one is this greedy thoughtless person who is just always thinking about the next hit and doesn’t really have a thought for the destruction he is causing. But the flipside is that Toad’s friends really care for him, and the message is that even if your friend is doing things that you really don’t like or really don’t care for, then stick with him. It’s all about friendship. That’s a big part of the show.”
But does Toad ever really learn his lesson? No, not really: “At the end he sneaks back upstairs and starts doing all the things he said he wouldn’t do – like singing songs and telling long stories. In the book it says he is an altered Toad, but he isn’t really!”
The Shoreham date comes as part of a short but intense tour starting on August 21 which will see 14 venues before September 6.
Matthew is confident: “I do feel that the audience is quite ready to get back. We are doing some venues indoors and some venues outdoors, and some of them have sold out.”
Earlier in August, Matthew was doing a theatre festival in Bath which also sold out: “I think people are just ready to return to the theatres again. This show is perfect for people who want something silly that is just a bit of a laugh, and I think that is what everybody needs after this year and a half that we have had.
“(When lockdown struck last year), I went pretty much into full-on survival mode, applying for everything and applying for whatever work I could. I remained in the theatre and I did quite a lot of work online. I got commissioned to write a couple of new plays. And I was always geared up to come back for outdoors theatre which we did last year as soon as we could. It was all a non-stop battle really, but we managed to get through!”
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