Writer: Poppy Burton-Morgan
Music: Pippa Cleary
Music & Lyrics: Keiran Merrick
Director: Poppy Burton-Morgan
Reviewer: Margarita Shivarova
Exeter Northcott Associate Company, Metta Theatre, brings to life the classic story of The Wind in the Willows through an energetic performance for all ages. The contemporary spin-off features a relatable story, some well-known faces coupled with modern rhythms and laughs.
Based on the motives of fitting in, standing out and dealing with one’s past, the audience is taken on a journey through the tough years of high school with the help of fellow classmates and their head teacher, Mr. Badger. We see one of the main characters, Mole, joining the Willows High School and facing the challenging task of making a new beginning work for her. Her classmates do not make this easy for her, nevertheless, together they soon realise that commonalities are more important than the differences between people.
In respect of the latter, casting talents such as Chris Fonseca and Seann Miley Moore manifests well the message of empowerment and inclusivity. Moreover, the focus on young actors and creatives is the real strength behind such a musical that manages to keep the eye engaged at all times even when the wise headteacher (The Badger), played by Clive Rowe, decides to join in with a dance. In fact, his role in pushing the boundaries of “being trapped in the moment” helps each character, as the audience learns more about the students going into the second act.
The quick development of action through the scenes brings the focus from Mole’s difficulty in fitting in, to Toad, his easy life and tendency of being a troublemaker (like his father). The story naturally gets richer, as the Chief and his gang blackmail Mole and steal the key for Toad’s house, thus setting a path for a clash between the good and the bad. However, this time it does not end in a glorious defeat, but a reconsideration of the meaning that comes with the baggage we all carry.
The music and choreography drive the play forward as much as the script does. Careful use of powerful voices helps with contrasts between scenes and easily reminds of West End Classics such as Wicked. Professional dancers among the cast stand out and keep the pace varied throughout the play. Lighting strikes another high in terms of enhancing situations and emotions the characters go through. Overall, the harmony established between actors’ movements, the songs’ beats, sound effects, and lighting is of a high standard.
The use of the stage and set in scene transitions is effortless, although could benefit from a little more simplicity in order to avoid seeing the technical crew on stage. In addition to shaping a memorable set, the costumes’ design appropriately delivers against the criteria of matching each character to an animal from the novel, as well as it once again emphasises the theme of celebrating differences.
Runs until 2nd March 2019 | Image: Contributed