Sometimes, it’s very wise to be very silly. Creation Theatre have a reputation for pushing boundaries and giving audiences a fresh take on what theatre is all about, and in this adaptation of Kenneth Graeme’s classic, they cleverly ditch all conventions except the two that matter most: being highly enjoyable and telling a good story. The result is a delightful detour into superb silliness, which I would recommend to anyone, young or old.
A little context: I’d like you to picture your intrepid reviewer, weary from a day at the digital coalface and nurturing a mild case of the grumps from the rush hour traffic, arriving with the suspicion that a mistake has been made. I hadn’t fully absorbed the information that this show involves walking around a field, has no refreshments available, and is a 20 minute walk from a toilet. The words ‘meadow’ and ‘theatre’ had given me an idea that all I needed to do was lay out a picnic blanket and watch, possibly whilst scoffing some pricey tea and cake. And now it seemed I was going to be scrambling about in some nettles, bursting for a wee and three decades older than the intended audience… Expectations were mixed. But thanks to Creation’s immersive and playful approach, five minutes later I was giggling like a six year old as I practiced hands-face-space ‘weasel protection moves’ under the instruction of an adorably earnest Mole. The message was clear: no matter how cranky an adult you may be feeling, resistance is futile - you are going to have fun!
Of course, the only actual child in our group had the good sense to understand this up front, so the performers quite rightly put her in charge. Children get maps to navigate the meadow with, and are tasked with helping their new riverbank friends to defeat Wesley the Evil Weasel and restore harmony at Toad Hall. There’s lots to do: rubber duckies to catch, laundry to pick up, weasel-warnings to learn, and - ultimately - a battle to be won (very gently, with a bit of foam ball chucking). At every step of your journey around the meadow, a new level of silliness is required: raspberry-blowing, whack-a-weasel and prisoner pants were particular highlights. Adults trying to dodge these activities be warned - the cast are on to you, and you’ll soon be marching to Badger’s beat.
It’s worth noting that the children present seemed to be having a brilliant time (small groups go round the field at ten-minute intervals), with all cast members taking time to include them and build their confidence in taking part. There are no scary surprises (although you do need your wits about you to ward off the weasel), and the meadow itself is fairly compact. The whole experience feels safe and friendly. In catering to the needs of younger audience members, Creation provide older ones with a welcome opportunity to regain a childlike sense of playfulness, energy and open-mindedness. Which is far more uplifting than a predictable picnic performance would’ve been. I absolutely loved it!