There are times as a reviewer that you see a production that is so alive with invention, humour and surprise that you are very conscious about spoilers. So I hope that I am not giving too much away when I say – expect the unexpected and expect to laugh your socks off at Oddsocks wonderfully inventive touring production of Kenneth Grahame's beloved story of riverbank folk Wind in the Willows. This fantastically funny version is adapted for the stage for Oddsocks by Andy Barrow and produced by Elli Mackenzie. Lucy Ward has been commissioned to provide the original music played live by the five performers.
Elli MacKenzie, Joseph Maudsley, Andrew McGillan, Dom Gee-Burch, and Rosamund Hine make up the small but beautifully versatile ensemble. They work so well together there often seems to be many more actors inhabiting the stage than there actually are. The delight they seem to share in performing the Oddsocks comedic style with each other and the audience is infectious. Wind in the Willows played by this daft and talented ensemble makes 'being silly' into an art form. Even their van parked outside the theatre bears the logo 'driven by laughter'.
All of the actors play different roles as the well loved characters, Elli MacKenzie as the easy going but shy Mole (loved the squeaks of terror in the Wild Wood), Joseph Maudsley delights as a very charming Ratty as well as playing four other parts including the funniest gaoler ever! Andrew McGillan is perfect as Toad, bright green wig, bandy legged and enthusiastically bound for trouble wherever he hops. McGillan's scenes where he steals the car are comedy classics. Dom Gee-Burch brings a gravitas to the play as the sensible Badger and even gently berates an audience member for getting up to go to the loo! Gee-Burch is also wonderfully believable as a horse pulling the caravan. Finally Rosamund Hind has a series of seven quick change roles and even pops up as the little seen Otter character. This is a production where all the players work extremely hard in keeping up the momentum and daftness but seem so laid back about it you relax with them.
Back projections help move each act to a new vista and I am not going to tell you how they row across the stage in a boat called Baby, drive a car down a country lane and crash it and bring a full size steam train into the tiny Guildhall Theatre on Derby's Market Square. If you want to grin all the way home and revel in Oddsocks inventive madness. Get along to the Guildhall this week (until 31st January) but don't go via the Wild Wood! Aaaargh!
Wind in The Willows is touring until February 21st. Next stop The Gaiety Theatre Ayr (Feb 14th) 01292 288235 and then Alnwick Playhouse Northumberland 17th February - 21st February. 01665 510785. Catch it while you can!!!!
Production photos by Hope Ward – Brown.
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