Wind in the Willows

Date 16th December 2022
Society Phoenix Theatre Company CIC
Venue The Daneside Theatre, Congleton
Type of Production Play
Director Beks Macklin
Written By Kenneth Graheme, adapted by Glyn Maxwell

Report

Author: Joe Clarke

I was delighted to return to the Daneside Theatre in Congleton this week for the final production of 2022, Wind in the Willows by Phoenix Theatre Company. This version by Kenneth Graheme and adapted by Glyn Maxwell was different to the script that I am used to, but it was delightful to see this story come alive once again. Phoenix Theatre Company are an all-inclusive society that focuses on community which really shone through, both on and off stage. Directed by Beks Mackin, this production was a great showcase of talent that members of Phoenix Theatre Company has. Set simplistically, with projections for locations and added set pieces such as boats and jail cells etc, the production values were not what we have come to expect from productions at The Daneside Theatre. Whilst the projection from the actors was relatively good on the whole, I think the whole thing could’ve been enhanced with a few stage mics. It also would’ve been nice to have seen the stage dressed a little more, or actors being used as props etc. Overall through, it was clear that the actors were well drilled in both character, storyline and skill and it looked like every actor on-stage was having the best time! The energy, particularly from the younger cast was brilliant and they really helped with the overall pace.

The lighting was a little dark in places, which helped with tones of scenes, however, I would’ve preferred if the lights were more front lit to hit the actors faces a little more (Just a suggestion). Contradictorily, the front lights that were used were a little too high and bright which meant that a lot of the projections on the backdrop were faded too much.

The sound on the whole was very good and I liked the music choices that were used. They really added layers and emotions to scenes.

Most actors wore masks on their faces which surprisingly didn’t impact on diction or projection. The masks were useful too in identifying groups of animals.

Mole was played by Anna Burke. Whilst it took a while to warm to the character (I think it was a lack of energy) I enjoyed Anna’s interpretation of this character. Contradictorily, I think the lack of energy really helped with characterisation and I totally got Mole vibes.

Ratty was played by Dan Hobson. Dan’s diction, projection and overall stagecraft was excellent, and he was strong in this role. I really liked his energy and commitment.

Rebecca Evans played the role of Toad. Rebecca also had brilliant stagecraft and was one of the highlights for me. Her characterisation and humour was fab, and she was well cast in this role.

David Burke was well cast as Badger. I loved the way in which he used his voice to convey wisdom. David storytelling was very good also and I really enjoyed his performance.

Daniel Anderson portrayed the role of the ‘baddie’ Weasel. Whilst Daniel had very good stage presence and was physically commanding (which added to his character) I would’ve preferred a little more strength in line delivery.

The Weasels (Elizabeth Ward, Matt Butler and Dante Burke) were strong and helped add humour. Dante Burke is certainly one to watch out for in the future!

I adored the fabulous Ferrets (Clare Watson, Martin Watson & Tony Lees) who although very understated, were excellent in characterisation and ability. I loved watching them in their scenes and loved all of the added animalistic elements that they brought – delightful!

Whilst the are far too many others for me to mention by name (for fear of leaving someone out) a special mention has to go to the three young girls who played the Stoat group. Their energy and commitment was brilliant and it’s clear to see that phoenix Theatre Company have a secure future with the talented youth they have within their membership.

There was a real sense of community within the theatre for this production which is in line with this society’s values. The audience were listening intently and seemed to really enjoy this classic tale. I thank Phoenix Theatre Company for their lovely hospitality and wish them all the very best for their 2023 season!