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In the Willows

“Impressive choreography”

How ‘street’ is The Wind in the Willows? Metta Theatre’s street-dance, musical adaptation transplants the tranquil riverbank and its cast of characterful animals into an inner-city failing school. Instead of “messing around in boats”, the kids are “messing around with beats”.

Mole is the new kid on the block with a dark secret. Ratty is applying to Cambridge University to escape her difficult circumstances. Toad’s dad is in prison and he fills the void with material possessions. Badger is their inspirational teacher.

Almost every song, which each sound almost as familiar as the characters’ backstories, includes a fairly heavy-handed moral steer about being who you are and finding your voice. With its primary coloured-costumes and dance-offs, In the Willows can seem like it’s trying too hard to be down with the kids.

Poppy Burton-Morgan’s show works best as a vehicle for the considerable dance and vocal talents of its cast. Although slightly limited by his role, Clive Rowe makes a majestic Badger, utilising his rich, baritone voice. Rhimes LeCointe choreographs a number of visually impressive routines, from the weasel gang’s menacing victory dance, to a tap-dancing dream sequence.

Burton-Morgan’s production also demonstrates how integrating access enhances performances for everyone. The entire show is signed by British Sign Language interpreter Laura Goulden, whose commitment to her performance is compelling to watch. Otter, played by street dancer Chris Fonseca, who is deaf, teaches Mole how to sign. In big chorus numbers, the cast members sign the lyrics, shimmying between sign language and dance moves.

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Production Details
Production nameIn the Willows
VenueOxford Playhouse
StartsApril 10, 2019
EndsApril 10, 2019, then touring until June 1
Running time2hrs 5mins
ComposerPippa Cleary, Keiran Merrick
Book writerPoppy Burton-Morgan
LyricistPoppy Burton-Morgan
DirectorPoppy Burton-Morgan
ChoreographerRhimes Lecointe
Set designerWilliam Reynolds
Costume designerRyan Dawson Laight
Lighting designerWilliam Reynolds
Sound designerAndy Graham
CastClive Rowe, Abiola Efunshile, Bradley Charles, Chris Fonseca, Harry Jardine, Katherine Picar, Seann Miley Moore, Treasure Iyamu, Victoria Boyce, Zara Macintosh
TechnicalLaura Goulden
Company stage managerSophie Sierra
Stage managerDavid Selves
ProducerExeter Northcott Theatre, Metta Theatre
VerdictMetta Theatre’s urban update of Wind in the Willows makes up for its lack of originality with impressive choreography
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