It’s panto season and each year ‘Brentwood Theatre’ does an alternative panto, last year it was a fantastic performance of ‘Danny Champion of the World’ and this year it’s Wind in the Willows
Adapted from the novel by Kenneth Grahame, the theatre production of “Wind in the Willows” focuses mainly on the story of Toad stealing a motorcar and being rescued by the other characters. Although they miss out some other parts of the storyline, it does allow the production time to branch out in other directions including, audience interaction and Musical numbers, written by Michael Hulett.
We were grateful to be invited along and this time it was different from last year, we had the ultimate test for the production, my 3-year-old daughter Lily-Anne. She had really got into the spirit of her first ever panto (The Queen’s Theatre’s, Aladdin) with shouts of ‘He’s behind you’ and ‘Oh no he didn’t’ and so I was interested to see what her reaction to Brentwood’s panto alternative.
The show had a class list of actors who showed us many skills, and different emotional from Love, Fright and happiness. The innocent Mole (Francesca Burgoyne) and more experienced Rat (Andrew Nance) played well on stage together and, although Toad would like us to think the story was all about him, Rat and Mole’s friendship and adventures were very much at the centre of the performance. Their close friendship was extended to the audience as we were encouraged to interact with the characters throughout the night, making us feel part of the Riverbank family.
Jackson Pentland did a fantastic job of embodying the energy and vain mindset of the Mr Toad, thinking he was the best animal in the world. He had some wonderful lines that he was able to time perfectly, allowing full effect for the audience. But he was also able to ad-lib and play on the audience’s reactions to bring more laughter to the night
The great wise and understanding Badger (Stewart Briggs), was the best dressed of the night, with both his makeup and clothes helping represent the wisdom and class of the character. Stewart has great stage presence and his character and his presence on stage was always felt
Lucy Litchfield played many different parts including the judge and washerwoman and she did it so well that I did not realise it was the same person until the end
The staging on the night was fantastic and all the scenes were set out really well allowing the performance to continue with limited interruptions. Quite often rooms would appear out of nowhere and the all the sets were painted to perfection. But some of the best scenes were quite simple, including one of my favourite scenes involving a wagon towed by Peter Taylor, making a short but funny appearance as a horse.
The music will have everyone singing these songs and my girl was certainly singing them on the way home. As well as the songs written for the show there were some very well-known Christmas Songs, including ‘In the Bleak mid-Winter’ that acted as a chance for all the actors to use their amazing singing voices, the harmony was so clear and beautiful to listen to.
I certainly agree with other reviews that although the show is aimed at children 5 years and up it is definitely a great show for children of all ages over this Christmas time. This was certainly proved by the reactions of my active 3-year-old, who sat in awe during the whole show, hiding in my jumper when she was scared and shouted as loud as she could to try and help Toad.
Jackson Pentland – Toad
Andrew Nance – Rat
Stewart Briggs – Badger
Francesca Burgoyne – Mole
Lucy Litchfield – Judge, Washerwoman, Engineer, Thief