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Need for speed . . . Toad (Joshua Murray, second from right) takes delivery of a new car from salesmen (from left) Jackson Collins, Ben Paton, and Luke Barker. PHOTO: LIZ CADOGAN

Theatre review

  • Reviewed by Sally Brooker
  • The Wind in the Willows
  • Musical Theatre Oamaru Children’s Theatre
  • Oamaru Repertory Theatre
  • Sunday, October 11

What a delight the audiences witnessed last week in the Itchen St theatre.

Director Pat Gunn worked wonders with her cast of 20 children aged 10-13. Their production based on Kenneth Grahame’s story of Toad, Ratty, Mole and Badger in the English countryside in the early 1900s was exquisite.

I feared the story would be rather too quaint and dated for today’s performers, but not at all. Gunn elicited exactly the right nuances from her actors, who aced the pithy one-liners and accents right on cue.

The humour, timing and sheer sophistication they brought to the stage was astonishing. And their love of their craft was obvious to see – and enjoy.

What a talented bunch they are, across the board. From the smallest Stoat to the tweed-clad Toad, they were always in character and on song.

Gunn’s costumes were adorable and very clever, matched beautifully by the props designed by Paul Frisby and constructed by the Musical Theatre Oamaru (MTO) Sunday Shed Team. This Kiwi ingenuity in action was one of the production’s highlights, along with how efficiently and quietly the young cast carried items on and off the stage for the frequent scene changes.

Catherine Keep’s choreography was just right – a delicious mix of the Roaring ’20s and woodsy, and used to great effect to further the narrative.

Joshua Murray led the cast superbly as Toad. His maturity as an actor is remarkable and he is one to look out for in the future.

Olivia Morriss was the perfect Ratty, delivering all her lines exceptionally and endearing herself to the audience.

Emily Morrison portrayed Mole with a gentle charm that hit the mark every time.

Zoe Denize brought wisdom and authority as Badger in another mature piece of stage presence.

Narrator Reece Griffiths did extremely well with his rhyming commentary, and Luke Barker was an audience favourite as both Jeeves and the car salesman.

Evelyn Nutbean and Johanna Schoneveld were terrific in their various guises and especially impressive in the court scene.

This production , dedicated to the late Avril Keep, affectionately known to MTO as Nanny Avril, did her very, very proud.