It’s amazing to think that this is the 27th year that Wind In The Willows has been entertaining audiences in the Royal Botanic Gardens – if you loved this production as a child then it’s sure to charm as a sweet family outing in the stunning surrounds of the gardens.
When: 27 December 2013 to 25 January 2014, Tuesday to Saturday at 11am and 6pm
Where: Royal Botanic Gardens MELBOURNE. Enter through Gate F on Birdwood Avenue then follow the signs to the on-site box office
Cost: Single tickets $25, group of four $90. Cash sales are available at the on-site box office unless sold out, box office opens one hour prior to each performance. For bookings call 03 8676 7511 or online at www.shakespeareaustralia.com.au or Ticketmaster 136 100
Watching a children’s production set in a park is, I have to say, a fairly relaxed affair. We went along to an evening show and from 5pm onwards we were able to secure our spot with the show beginning at 6pm. The actors aren’t mic’d up so don’t be shy about sitting close to the front (no one was singled out for sitting up the front the night we went). So relaxed is this performance that at moments a couple of the characters came and joined in on the picnic action!
Speaking of picnics I am terrible at picnics (although a quick glance behind us and I felt fleetingly smug that we at least had something prepared from home and were not eating tuna out of a can like the people behind us). The two groups in front of us however had the most incredible spreads going on that my family all had total picnic envy – the kids hoovered up everything in our little esky and then looked on enviously as a birthday cake was divvied up and offered around (actually I am surprised my two didn’t completely abandon us and join in the party). So despite their adequate dinners they seemed to have rumbling tummies throughout the performance and there was no handy nearby food vendor of any description to satisfy a craving.
The show is about an hour long and we moved to a second site (and had to pack everything up and take with) about halfway into the show. The second half of the show was a very short stroll around the corner – and we were given about five or so minutes to settle into a new spot with our picnic rugs. Children were invited to sit up the front (and quite a few did) but our two wanted to stay with us.
Towards the end of the story the children (and adults if they want) are invited to break into two groups and head off to help find the little otter Portly who is lost – and so for about 10 minutes the kids were all off being led on a hunt by a few of the characters. Anyone who didn’t fancy running about the Gardens was left to guard Toad Hall with the Head Chief Rabbit and Weasel. There were silly puns and innuendoes flying about all over the place and more picnics consumed by our furry friends – Weasel even got stuck into someones bottle of wine.
Wind In The Willows is definitely a very pleasant way to spend a summer holiday evening and there were lots of silly moments. If I had my time again I would stock my picnic basket with some extra snacks and perhaps read some of the stories before we went. Santa did give us a beautiful copy of the book for Christmas and I suspect if we’d had time to read some of it the kids would have been more familiar with the characters and they may have been more easily lost in the story – there are detailed introductions at the outset of the performance, which was handy for me – being a bit rusty on the characters other than Ratty, Mole and Toad.
- the performance will proceed if there is a light drizzle – so dress and prepare for all weather conditions
- bring a picnic rug – otherwise you will be sitting on the grass (which is quite lush at the moment)
- there is no on site catering – all food and drink is BYO (and alcohol is allowed)
- the nearest toilets are near the entrance gate (about a 5 min walk away) so be sure to go before the show
- there is limited/no shade
- there is a fair bit of speaking (a few moments of song) and so this performance might be more suited to school aged + children
- if your children are likely to want to join in the hunt for Portly make sure they are wearing shoes they can comfortably run about in (ie this is not the best moment to try walking in thongs for the first time – but it’s a light sprint so you don’t need to dress in your sports kit)