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Stage Dragon: The Wind In The Willows At Dapdune Wharf

Published on: 3 Aug, 2021
Updated on: 3 Aug, 2021

By Ferenc Hepp

I had a kind invitation by one of the founders of Prologue Youth Theatre Company to spend an evening in the very pleasant surroundings of the National Trust’s Dapdune Wharf by the river in Guildford to watch a production of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, adapted by Adam Forde and David Perkins.

The Wind In The Willows performed by members of the Prologue Youth Theatre Company at the National Trust’s River Wey Navigations’ Dapdune Wharf in Guildford. Pictures by Steve Porter.

Prologue was formed in August 2020 by a team of highly experienced theatre professionals, providing weekly workshops for young people aged nine to 25, all of whom get a chance to audition for annual productions.

This show was directed by Adam Forde and Eve Winters, with musical direction by David Perkins, movement direction by Jules Black and Ellie Johnson and the production manager was Lucy Betts; a team with a long-standing previous connection to the Yvonne Arnaud Youth Theatre prior to the pandemic and the new management.

We all need something positive and cheerful in our lives at the moment and these group of talented young actors performing this charming and funny musical play with such energy and enthusiasm gave us exactly that.

The seating was within a small clearing by the river, providing the perfect setting, and the action took place all round us, so we never knew where the next scene was going to take place.

We were even asked to follow the cast to the riverbank a short walk away promenade style for one of the scenes.

The opening number introduced us to quite a lot of the protagonists, and felt somewhat subdued to start with, however, the energy and volume certainly reached higher levels later in the performance.

One of the double acts we got to meet quite early were Mole (Millie Hayes) and Rat (Alicja Drew) who had great chemistry and especially enjoyed Alicja’s verbal and physical portrayal of this fun character.

Hands and facial expressions to represent these creatures were well utilised by this pair, so even more Lion King-esque physicality from the ensemble would have elevated this to the highest level, however, their enjoyment and enthusiasm more than made up for that.

One of the outstanding performances came from Alex McKenzie as Jake Weasel, leading his “brothers of Wild Wood and Associated Landscapes and Terrains” with brilliant energy and comic timing.

Alex’s scene in Act 2 as a French waiter in disguise had us all in stitches, it was obvious that he worked hard on his character and that paid off.

We sympathised with Jasper Weasel (Mira Baldwin) who just wanted to understand what was going on and what he should call Jake (Brother? Father?), and there were plenty of fantastic and humorous moments provided by Tom Skwarski with his sneaky portrayal of Simon Stoat in Jake’s gang, as well as a highly exuberant Magistrate’s Clerk who took a number of blows on his head by a judge’s hammer.

Tom needs to go for comedy roles as I am sure he will be successful if he does decide to pursue this career.

With some of the closing moments resembling scenes from Dad’s Army and Les Misérables, David Perkins’s music alongside Peter Holmes on percussion provided a perfect backdrop to the storytelling and Orla Thorne’s costume designs brought it all to life in a visually pleasing manner.

The company only had three rehearsals as a whole cast prior to show week due to the pandemic, which was difficult to believe as the performance felt very polished.

The enjoyment and pride was not only clear to see on the cast’s and production team’s faces, but also from members of the capacity audience who were smiling all the way through and gave some well-deserved enthusiastic cheers at the end to this accomplished young cast.

For more information about the work of Prologue Youth Theatre Company, please visit www.prologue.org.uk

 

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