In The Willows – Bristol Old Vic REVIEW

If I’m honest I’ve not seen Wind in the Willows, something about a toad that drives a car?… I knew it was an old tale filled with moral and aimed at children, so when rap and hip hop filled adaptation drove into Bristol I was certainly intrigued.

Metta Theatre have returned to Bristol Old Vic after massive success with The Jungle Book in 2017 with their new production called In The Willows. I won’t delay any more in saying that I really loved this production. Rapping toads may not sounds like it makes much sense but this production just works perfectly.

Witty, fast paced, colourful and exuberant, the characters are exaggerated and well rounded whilst the story and morals remain strong and clear making it perfect for younger children to follow.

It’s Moles first day at ‘The Willows’ high school and it’s all a little daunting. It’s not long before you discover who’s who and find out just the journey Mole has been on.

Victoria Boyce in the lead role of Mole was well cast and had a gorgeous singing voice. Her awkward mannerisms and physicality fitted perfectly and eventually by the end her animal pals had her dancing along with them.

She finds a friend in Toad who was another favourite of mine. His rapping was impeccable and comedic timing spot on. He stole the show a little with his solo Easy Life and stole our hearts with his growing relationship with Mole.

The other character that stood out for me was Zara MacIntosh as Rattie, who was fierce yet friendly. Her dance abilities shone out along with Chief Weasel (Bradley Charles).

Her and the other animals were taught, mentored, looked after by and cared for by the brilliant Badger (Clive Rowe). If you’ve ever seen Tracy Beaker you’ll remember the lovable chef Duke, who in this play was a similar father figure for those who had lost their way, but with a little bit more singing… which he smashed!

There was a pleasant amount of singing from Badger and Mole to balance the brilliant (no other word for it) rapping from the rest of the cast. Lyrics were genius, current, and really rather hilarious. It felt very Hamilton inspired but in the best way. Music brought so much to the production and I can’t fault this element of it at all. I was singing the songs all the way home.

The dancing came second to the rapping and singing but not too far behind. Tap, contemporary and hip hop all featured in this production that cut no corners. The choreography by Rhimes Lecointe felt inventive, dynamic and as energetic as the rest of the production.

There is a fourth element to this production on top of the singing, acting and dancing which is sign language. In a play which is all about not fitting it, it felt wonderful to be so inclusive of a minority. Not only was the entire play signed but signing was incorporated directly into the production in the choreography and through the inclusion of a deaf character.

Amongst the mayhem and endless energy the lessons taught by the characters and dilemmas stand out above it all. Despite the age recommendation of 6+ I’m not sure a child under 10 would be able to follow the fast lyrics. They would certainly enjoy the energy, colour and characters though.

In the end it was the adults that cheered the loudest, down to the striking topics, side splitting wit and high standard of all elements. In the Willows is brilliant fun for all ages and I would highly recommend you see this. Simple…

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