Archive for July 11th, 2011

Review – Toad – Bad Physics at Southwark Playhouse

July 11, 2011

I am fairly new to all of this “Wind in the Willows” hoopla, as I just read the book last summer. Previously I’d seen a staged version (15 years back), the Disney movie (30 years back) and ridden “Mr Toad’s Wild Ride” at Disneyland. But the story of Ratty, Mole, Badger, and Toad are currently very fresh in my mind, with bonus points for Kenneth Grahame’s evocation of a lovely England of not so long ago (that brought to mind Tolkein’s fictionalization of same at Hobbitown). The description of this new adaptation (“Toad”) by Bad Physics (recently of the lovely Sunday Morning at the Center of the World) got me very excited: “In the unknown depths of The Vault, Southwark Playhouse, you’ll be thrust into a dark, dangerous but impossibly exciting world, and into the heart of an adventure. More than an audience, you’ll become part of the Wild Wood itself as you join our heroes for car crashes, prison breaks, a testing of friendships and a battle of honour – with menacing Weasels hiding round every corner, ready to pounce.”

Let’s re-read this: thrust into a world. Part of the Wild Wood itself. Join our heroes. Weasels hiding around every corner. IS IT NO SURPRISE I THOUGHT THIS WAS A PROMENADE PERFORMANCE?

I was really, really excited about this show. But it was just a play, and a very small play at that. I thought we were going to be racing through the tunnels of Badger’s house and leaping out into Toad Hall, and instead we sat there and looked at a horrible, tacky, inappropriate set that was supposed to be Badger’s house while utterly nonthreatening carnivores lurked unmeanacingly outside. I thought we were going to be racing through shadowy forests and dodging stoats; instead, we got to watch a stoat (Mark Conway) method acting on a Twister board. And while I could accept making the whole plot about the carnivores tempting Toad to get him into trouble, the ending was as false to the story as if Romeo and Juliet had lived. Toad does not shake hands with Weasel (Ben Neale) and walk off as pals at the end of this play. Really, What The F**k.

Despite my total misunderstanding about what Bad Physics were going to put on and genuine disappointment at what was presented, I will give props to Dan Starkey, who was a magnificent Toad and well cast in the role. However, he couldn’t overcome the fact that I was bored enough to check my watch a mere 55 minutes into a 75 minute show. This script is just not on and time dragged while I sat in the uncomfortable chairs of the vaults. While I want to say something nice, ultimately, “At least I only paid 8 quid” is not much of a compliment. Perhaps this is how some parents want their kids to see the world but for me the ending was a final bad taste after a night that had left me struggling. Bah. I apologized to my friends and slunk back to my own little burrow thinking of how I WISHED this play had been done.

(This review is for a performance that took lace on Monday, Juy 11th, 2011. It runs through July 30th.)