Top Marks for The Willows High School
In the Willows, Belgrade Theatre until Theatre until March 23.
Way back in the 1950s I recall the head teacher of my primary school reading Kenneth Graham’s enchanting Edwardian story to my class and feeling totally enthralled by it. Those riverbank tales seemed a million miles away from the Black Country council estate where I attended lessons. I certainly would never have envisaged that well over half a century later I would be watching a version that was actually set in an urban school and contained singing, dancing and a female mole and rat! We get to see Mole struggle to settle in to Willows High School and some of her classmates certainly don’t make it easy for her. The show has very clever, modern script but the main characters Badger, Mole, Rattie and Toad have essentially the same personalities as in the original novel. The multicultural, youthful and energetic cast certainly do justice to an imaginative script. The hip hop music is extremely catchy with clever lyrics which are delivered enthusiastically and tunefully by the whole cast. The musical is superbly choreographed with acrobatic and at times almost breathtaking street dancing and include a particularly impressive performance from the profoundly deaf Chris Fonseca as the lovable Otter. The vibrant show goes along at a rapid pace with neat sound effects, simple costumes and slick and unobtrusive scene changes. The final scene is especially impressive as the show reaches its crescendo and the performers display one or two of their party pieces The production seemed to appeal to the children and young people as well as the more mature members the audience. The only disappointment was that there were not more of them there to enjoy it.