The Wind in the Willows is one of Melbourne’s great summer traditions. The Royal Botanic Gardens have hosted the production since 1987, and this year’s rendition by the Australian Shakespeare Company is pitch-perfect for the young and young at heart. We are invited to attend a performance.
It’s a beautiful way to introduce children to theatre through the characters of Kenneth Grahame’s classic story (and a couple of extras) – the vain and hilarious Mr Toad, stern Mr Badger, the slightly nefarious Weasel, as well as Mole, Ratty, Portly and the ring-in Head Chief Rabbit.
The performance begins near the Central Lake and shifts halfway through to a more wooded location a short walk away.
The change of setting is a good chance for youngsters to stretch their legs and take a break during a surprisingly long show (around 90-100 minutes).
The show is peppered with pop culture references that will amuse the adults as well as the kids. Lightning, 8, and El Guapo, 4, particularly love Weasel and Mr Toad’s antics.
The show is highly engaging and interactive, with songs and actions, classic pantomime devices like “He’s behind you!” and even a chance for “little rabbits” to spend time with key characters away from the main stage.
The all-singing, all-dancing, all-instrument-playing cast is delightfully cheeky, pinching snacks from the audience (including Cheezels for Weasel) and eliciting plenty of laughs with ad-libbed jokes and exchanges.
We take a picnic blanket and wet-weather gear as the forecast is for rain (it is Melbourne, after all). Sure enough, the heavens begin to open toward the end of the show, but no-one is deterred. “After all, it’s fine weather for toads!” declares the show’s hero.
Afterwards, there’s a chance for photos with the cast. Lightning is clearly thrilled to meet Weasel, Rat and the Head Chief Rabbit (excuse the rain drops on the lens!).
I’ve wanted to take the kids to The Wind in the Willows for years now, and I’m so thrilled we’re finally part of this fine Melbourne tradition. It might be the first time, but it certainly won’t be the last time.
After The Wind in the Willows why not check out the Ian Potter’s Children’s Garden in the Royal Botanic Gardens to continue the magic.
Click here for my Top 7 tips for going to the theatre with kids
- Enter through Gate F near Dallas-Brooks Drive;
- Pram parking available;
- When the performance moves, take all your belongings as you won’t go back to the original set;
- The performance is about 90-100 minutes in an open-air setting, so it’s probably most suitable for older toddlers and primary school-aged children (depending on your child’s concentration levels);
- Take wet-weather gear if rain is forecast as the show is only cancelled in seriously bad weather; and
- Take a picnic blanket and snacks – they’re likely to be enjoyed by the performers as well as your kids 😊.