Dance Overview: ‘The Wind in the Willows,’ Danced in London

December 26th, 2013

LONDON — “Let my creatures live once again,” states the narrator at the start off of Will Tuckett’s phase adaptation of “The Wind in the Willows,” the children’s book by Kenneth Grahame that has been beloved below almost given that it was initial released in 1908. The people do stay in Mr. Tuckett’s model, the first Royal Opera House generation to transfer into a industrial theater in the West Stop of London, opening very last week and running by means of Feb. 1.

The piece — a charmingly condensed edition of the adventures of Mole, Ratty, Toad, Badger and the other anthropomorphic animals who inhabit Grahame’s idyllic countryside — was developed in 2002 as the very first Christmas manufacturing for the Royal Opera House’s then-new Linbury Theater, a modest black-box space created for smaller-scale function.

Mr. Tuckett, then a Royal Ballet dancer, commissioned the rating from Martin Ward, based on music by the composer George Butterworth, who was killed for the duration of Entire world War I. The production’s initial period featured former Royal Ballet stars, as nicely as its previous director Anthony Dowell as the narrator. There have been just 9 performances, but the demonstrate was a strike with the critics and the general public, and it has experienced typical reprises at the Linbury considering that.

The good news is that the display functions completely in its new home, the little, 479-seat Duchess Theater, throughout the road from the Theater Royal, in which the extremely massive-scale “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” holds sway. Mr. Tuckett’s “The Wind in the Willows” isn’t largely a dance piece, even however the principal people are played by dancers and their actions are all choreographed. Its real focus is the picturesque language spoken by the narrator (Tony Robinson) who performs Grahame, conjuring these characters and the pastoral entire world that is probably a very last minute of English cultural innocence before the onslaught of the Great War.

The tale starts in the writer’s dusty, sunlit attic. Out of a rolled-up carpet emerges Mole (Clemmie Sveaas) out of a upper body arrives the Otter (Ewan Wardrop), who generates a river with a blue-and-white-striped sheet for Ratty (Will Kemp), the drinking water rat, to sail on. The idea permeating the poet Andrew Motion’s lively adaptation of Grahame’s text is a single that informs all of literature: The terms we study or hear are fodder for our creativity, as we flesh out and develop our own images of, and suggestions about, the tales we are informed. Mr. Tuckett and the designers, the Quay Brothers, make that evident: Ratty wears his boat strapped close to his waistline just as later on Toad wears the auto with which he wreaks havoc a giant chair gets to be the bars of a jail mobile a wardrobe is reworked into a traveling caravan tethered to a rocking horse.

It is the things of childhood play, and also populated by childhood nightmares. For all the capering about on the riverbank, with Toad (a madcap, hyperactive Cris Penfold) top the pals in jests and caprices, the figures should encounter their fears. To check with with Badger (Christopher Akrill) on the topic of Toad’s negative behavior (he has taken to driving autos wildly about the countryside, inflicting hurt where ever he goes), Mole and Ratty must undertaking at evening into the woods, where the scary stoats and weasels loom. And Toad himself have to at some point experience a decide (marvelously represented by Toby Oli?’s puppet) — a large-faced incarnation of a furious parent.

Mr. Tuckett’s staging, with its dexterous interweaving of textual content, songs and motion, moves easily from riverbank to woods to jail and, eventually, to Toad Corridor, exactly where the buddies effectively struggle the stoats and weasels who have taken over Toad’s grand household house. There is, at factors, ingenious choreography, specifically in the final battle scene and in a scene that features Mr. Wardrop in drag as the jailer’s daughter who frees Toad from jail (a nod to the wonderful British tradition of the pantomime dame). Listed here, extended tables become ramps on which the weasels (Teddy Boys in drainpipe jeans and large hair) assemble in development: a Highland fling and sword fighting ? la “Romeo and Juliet” are by some means incorporated into the hilarious action.

Mr. Tuckett provides every character a distinct gait and physicality, occasionally suggesting their animal natures, and there is a reference or two to folks dance, but the movement isn’t, in common, terribly memorable. Nevertheless, it does not genuinely matter. Even with times, specifically in the first half, when the action lags a minor, Mr. Tuckett and the excellent actor-dancers keep a pitch-excellent tone of sweetness and poetry with admirable talent. (Mr. Kemp’s Ratty is particularly good, with an Edwardian fighter-pilot allure.) Mr. Robinson’s narration, and his occasional wry participation in the motion, is of a equally influencing simplicity and allure, the words and phrases of a guy for whom practically nothing is much more actual, or far more delightful, than the creation of stories.

Youngsters are maybe the market for this “The Wind in the Willows,” but adult issues permeate its Edwardian planet. (The costumes, by Nicky Gillibrand, are all rumpled tweed and tartan plus fours.) As in “Downton Abbey,” social adjust portends in the form of the upstart weasels, with their flashy, subversive equipment and trashing of Toad’s ancestral house. The car with which Toad operates amok is the harbinger of mechanical, industrial change in the bucolic land. And Toad himself — imperious, self-centered, marvelously larger than lifestyle — is the landowner bringing doom upon himself as he pursues his possess way of daily life with hedonistic glee and the certainty of his possess proper to do so.

All of this is subtly recommended, if you’re emotion suggestible. Otherwise, “The Wind in the Willows” is joyously harmless exciting, a paean to an England that is now — and was possibly even then — a area mostly of the creativeness.

“The Wind in the Willows” operates by way of Feb. 1 at the Duchess Theater in London

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