16 December 2019.
(Originally published in The Stage on 16 December 2019)
Performance collective Figs in Wigs applies its distinctive style of joyous, high-concept whimsy to the pantomime format in a fantastically imagined and enjoyable production of The Wind in the Willows at Cambridge Junction.
Written by Rachel Gammon, Suzanna Hurst, Sarah Moore, Rachel Porter and Alice Roots (of Figs in Wigs), the show takes the beloved characters from the Wild Wood on a space odyssey, with abundant laughs for both children and adults along the way.
Toad (endearingly played by Sarah Moore) is re-imagined as a fun-loving, reckless amphibian who can’t keep herself out of trouble, especially with her arch-enemy Weasel (Rachel Gammon) prowling around. Toad’s latest craze is rocket ships, and when she blasts into space with Weasel unwittingly on board, her friends from the Riverbank must find a way to save her.
Delightfully inventive visual effects are laced throughout: a giant iPhone dials Shrew Perkins, Rabbit DeNiro and Justin Beaver, who knows a ‘Nick’ with ‘a magical flying vehicle’ which they can borrow to rescue Toad.
Space is sweetly conjured via Tim Spooner’s set design and Tom Parkinson’s thoughtful and bright electro-musical soundscapes, as the lovably comic trio of Badger, Ratty and Mole (respectively Suzanna Hurst, Rachel Porter and Alice Roots) fly in Nick’s sleigh, contemplating the vastness of the universe.
The plot is resolved with a single resounding joke that landed riotously with the children in the audience, while the adults are peppered throughout with ticklish theatrical ironies. Altogether, the whirling conceptual play between micro and macrocosms – woods, rivers, small furry animals, technology and the cosmos – are deftly woven together into a deliciously alternative and modern Christmas panto.