As a small child I didn’t enjoy books with anthropomorphised animals. Beatrix Potter series and Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows left me unmoved. In fact, when I berated my father for not introducing me to Beatrix Potter he claimed I cried when he read her stories to me.
Of course, I didn’t have the advantage of having director Francois Theron and his fabulous creative team to bring the musical by Piers Chater Robinson (based on the book, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham) to life for me.
Mr Toad (Gamelihle Bovana) and his friends, Rat (Bradley Nowikow), Mole (John Tsenoli) and Badger (JT Medupe), delighted audiences of all ages at the official opening. These quintessentially English characters live a wonderful life in the countryside around Toad Hall, but Mr Toad gets himself into trouble. The weasels are delighted when he lands up in prison and they take over his beautiful Toad Hall. Gareth Meijsen is the Chief Weasel, Senzesihle Radebe is the magistrate and washerwoman, Kirsty Marillier is Rosy and Philip Hanly is the policeman and male swing. It is an ensemble cast, but Senzesihle Radebe as the magistrate stole my heart.
Theron never speaks down to his audience. They must rise to the occasion, and they do. Things I think will be too advanced for them seem to be absorbed easily. Of course, Theron works a lot from the great children’s classics and the next two productions in the pipeline are The Tiger who Came to Tea (18 July – 20 August) and Narnia (15 August – 3 September).
Production values for The Adventures of Mr Toad are high. The set is a marvel of creativity in the space available, with Stan Knight’s usual clever visual creations pleasing the parents who notice these things. I particularly loved the car. Lighting is by Jane Gosnell. The charming costumes are by Sarah Roberts, fantastic choreography by Jodie Renouf Davimes, and catchy feel-good numbers with musical direction by Clint Lesch, including Hang Spring Cleaning, Let’s Jump Aboard and Weasels Reign, make this delightful production a perfect outing for the whole family. While on the subject of credits I have no idea why the photos aren’t showing the titles. These were supplied by the National Children’s Theatre. One more – the makeup, as you can see here, is simply wonderful. Kudos to the makeup person.
The Adventures of Mr Toad runs from 20 June to 23 July 2017: Mondays to Saturdays from 20 June to Saturday 24 June, and Tuesday to Sunday from 27 June to 23 July 2017 daily at 10:30 and 14:30 during government school holidays; The length is 1½ hours with a short intermission. Venue: National Children’s Theatre, 3 Junction Avenue, Parktown, Johannesburg. Ticket prices are R120 for chairs and R100 for cushions. Pensioners pay R80. There is plenty of free, safe parking.
Booking is essential as schools also book. Phone Claudy or Zuki on 011 484 -1584/5 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Funded with money from the National Lotteries Commission.