AWARDS FOR WIND IN THE WILLOWS - Best Theatrical Production, Best Childrens' Show
AWARDS FOR RETURN TO THE WILLOWS - Best Theatrical Production, Best Director (Helen Crosse), Best Actor (Michael Totton)
THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Remotegoat - Petra Schofield
Appearing as part of the ever impressive FAB (Fringe Arts Bath) Festival, The Shooting Stars Theatre Company bring to life the family favourite Wind in the Willows Set in the stunning surroundings of The Sensory Garden in Henrietta Park; Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad cavort into life under the wonderfully creative direction of Helen Crosse. It is the first time that this high quality, small scale professional touring company has been to Bath, aside from two shows tomorrow; they need to return at the earliest opportunity.
Engaging both the small and much bigger kids in the audience this production showed just how great outdoor theatre can be, away from the restraints of imposing buildings and the worry of whether the children might make a noise - here you are encouraged to participate, interact and have a really good time.
The story is edited at high speed and all the drama neatly fits into an hour or so - there is significant artistic license with the recapture of Toad Hall set to Bohemian Rhapsody but that is just a reflection of the creativity and fabulous sense of humour that prevails throughout the show.
All characters are well drawn, Peter Steele a wonderfully proper Ratty, Joe Sargent a utterly loveable Mole, James Clifford as Badger proving that whilst he may appear as the Patriarch there is much soul underneath; Michael Totton as Toad is a fabulously gregarious, pompous fool and balances the final apologies well - this is a great team effort from a highly impressive company.
They perform again in Bath, tomorrow 27th May 11:30 and 2:30 - tickets £7 on the door, gates open 30mins early and there is entertainment from the outset.
Not the best access for those with mobility issues but wheelchairs would be ok with a willing helperDo go, it is great fun - or catch it across the country at Henley Fringe, Dorset, RSC Dell, Attic Theatre, Welwyn Garden City and Camden Festival - each show geared to the environment surrounding it, an absolute gem of a company, well worth following.
Guide 2 Stratford-upon-Avon - Marko Spriggs
It is over a hundred years since Kenneth Grahame's timeless literary classic was first published. The characters of Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad have had many incarnations and the dreams of many a child will have been fuelled by the magical realism of Grahame's wonderful creations as they 'mess about in boats' or take a wander to the 'Wild Wood.'
It is with some trepidation that one attends a 'low budget' adaptation of a piece that is so precious in the memory and which has produced so many iconic sights and sounds in its various forms. Shooting Stars production at The Attic Theatre last week at Stratford's Fringe Festival proved without doubt that when a wonderful piece of art is treated with respect, enthusiasm, a touch of creative genius and talent and energy in spades, that such concerns are completely unfounded. The love is the key.
The set is minimal as you would expect. A diminutive Toad Hall adorned with a few union jacks in the spirit of the jubilee and just a few props to help the actors along; some cushions, oars, a tea pot, jubilee cups all simple stuff. The magic here though was the attention to characterisation that each of the talented actors brought to their roles and the relish with which each of them were presented to a theatre mostly full of enthralled and wide eyed youngsters.
Peter Steele's amicable and cultured Ratty, Joe Sargent's gentle and vulnerable Mole, James Clifford's worldy-wise, gruff, yet kindly Badger and of course, perhaps the greatest challenge, to make the character of Toad your own, a feat which Michael Totton managed effortlessly; pompous, conceited, naive, impulsive yet always adorable - Totton engaged his young audience from the very beginning.'
Director Helen Crosse quite obviously had sprinkled the whole production with a tremendous amount of affection and humour - the four characters performing a wonderfully choreographed and hilarious Bohemian Rhapsody at one point and confronting the weasels, stoats and ferrets who have taken over Toad Hall in a slow mo fight sequence with that well known 'Rocky' soundtrack on another - this was enchanting family entertainment of the highest calibre.'
Shooting Stars head down to Welwyn Garden City next, then on to Henley and Camden later in the summer, do catch them if you can!
The Stratford Herald - Sandy Holt
Shooting Stars' offering at the Fringe was a magical family show, Wind in the Willows, at the Attic Theatre at Cox's Yard.
The hour long piece was produced specifically with youngsters in mind - lots of larger than life characters, excellent costumes and make-up and a vivid Toad Hall back drop.
Directed by Helen Crosse, this charming version of the Kenneth Grahame classic tale was well presented, and its quick-fire pace was just the job to keep the young audience engaged.
With a well-chosen cast who add zest throughout - Peter Steele as a terrible well-to-do Ratty, Joe Sargent as a timid bespectacled Mole, James Clifford as a grumpy, aging rocker Badger and Michael Totton as the slippery yet adorable Toad - one couldn't help but be engrossed by the production from start to finish.
The performance was quaint and funny, with just enough adult jokes thrown into the pot to keep the older members of the audience amused too.
The company certainly lives up to its name - each a shooting 'star' in his or her own right!
THE RETURN TO THE WILLOWS
Remotegoat 2013 - Petra Schofield
To see Shooting Stars Theatre Company a year on from their resounding triumph at Bath Fringe is like meeting old friends.
The characters are intact with the addition of a new member whilst the jokes, choreography and musical choices are as spot in as ever.
Return to The Willows is written by Michael Totton, who also features as the gregarious and crowd pleasing Mr. Toad.
The story picks up on life after the storming of Toad Hall and the welcome emergence of a love interest for the hapless shy and engaging Mole (Joe Sargent.)
As with all tales aimed at the younger end of the spectrum there is a pleasing ending and a good moral "Everyone deserves a second chance." Here the new character Madame Tromberie (Roisin Keogh) is the recent arrival in the wild wood who woos young Mole but all is not what it seems.
The performances are excellent from the energetic committed company, Ratty (Peter Steele) and Badger (Graham Dron) complete the team which is ably directed by Helen Crosse.
Shooting Stars once again prove that they remain leaders in Fringe Theatre for quality and exciting family productions. Audience participation and interaction abounds, the children relish the humour whilst adults are suitably entertained by both the accomplished performances and great routines to the "classic" tunes on offer, the slow motion battle was a fine moment.
Whilst I was in two minds as to whether the outdoor location in Bath last year made this one feel a little more restricted, my 8 year old assured me it was better - how can I disagree with the target audience? Either way, if you're in Stratford this week grab a ticket, if not get there because regardless you're missing out!
HIDDEN GEM 2013
Returning to the home of Toad (Michael Totton), Mole (Joe Sargent), Ratty (Peter Steele) and Badger (Graham Dron) had a lot of expectation resting on it's shoulders after last year's fabulous adaptation of the original novel and it did not disappoint! This entirely new piece introduces another character (played by Roisin Keogh) to the river bankers and finds the 'cute' Mole at the centre of it's story; delivered via a well-written and clever script that is entertaining and accessible for adults and children alike.
Their simple set has a beautiful backdrop (which the characters interact with at one point) alongside the fantastic face painting and dapper costumers that may be remembered from their prequel.
Helen Crosse does an exemplary job as director and compliments Michael Totton's writing style; her simple yet effective choices and utterly hilarious set-pieces are delivered exceptionally giving the show energy, drive, humour and a little touch of Shooting Stars magic. Crosse has also chosen her cast well as their quality and team spirit evidently impact on the production's high standard. Every one of them warms your heart and I found myself crying with laughter and welling-up with emotion and the play's touching resolution.
Totton takes another gallant role in the team, playing the ever-charming Toad and his comic timing had the audience bursting into laughter amany a light-hearted remark or a mere glance!' Sargent perfectly brings to life the ever sweet and endearing Mole and the great casting continues as we see the efficient and gentlemanly Ratty animated by Steele. Dron playing Mr. Badger is suitably commanding and a little gruff as the familiar, friendly foursome begin their journey. Keogh adds nicely to the mix as Madame Tromberie with her pleasant and quaint portrayal of a rabbit to complete the cast.' The intricate attention to detail means the audience's attention remains held and keeps the laughter and smiles ebbing and flowing as they creatively tell their story.' With a concoction of comedic faciel expressions accompanying excellently times set-pieces the cast had the crowd in hysterics.
It is fair to say that this production is as joyous to watch as sitting on the river-bank and laughing with friends on a sunny Sunday; beautifully written and heart-warmingly performed theatre for all the family.