The Wind in the Willows - Reading and Audition Notice

Reading:                       Sunday 27th August, 4.00 pm, Foyer (Hampton Hill Theatre)

Audition:                       Sunday 3rd September, 2.00 pm - 7.30pm, Foyer/Auditorium

                                       (Hampton Hill Theatre)

Performance Dates:    Saturday 9th December – Saturday 16th December 2017 (Auditorium)

(NB. Please note the slightly unusual times of the Reading and Auditions)

 

The Wind in the Willows by Alan Bennett (adapted from the book by Kenneth Grahame)

The Wind in the Willows is one of England’s most treasured children’s stories and the characters of Mole, Ratty, Badger and the incorrigible Mr. Toad have become hugely popular through stage, film and TV adaptations. None, however, capture the themes and mood of the book as perfectly as Alan Bennett’s 1990 adaptation for the National Theatre.

Whilst it has plenty of music, it is very much a play with songs rather than a musical - the perfect form for this charming, deeply English tale of friendship, growing up and of Home. Like the book the play celebrates all of England’s seasons, but Christmas features heavily to provide the required festive flavour!

Whilst it is not a panto it is great fun, so I hope those of you who love a panto will come out to play and those who prefer the rigour of a great playwright’s work will also come along.

The Audition

Bennett has given the various smaller roles a suggestion of different regional accents in the writing. With the exception of Albert (definitely a Brummie!) I have made suggestions below but these are not set in stone, so don’t feel you must use an accent for the auditions.

Whilst Bennett’s adaptation is men-heavy I am keen to cast women for roles where appropriate - see below.

Character List

Mole - Male/Female, 20-30, Northern maybe, but not necessarily. Naive (though not stupid), enthusiastic, thoughtful, short-sighted. The character a young audience will identify with and the one who learns most through the play. Like Bennett himself, perhaps, as a younger man.

Ratty - Male, 35-50, Slim, Estuary/RP clipped accent. Ship-shape, sensitive, ordered, highly strung, homely, kind, considerate, resourceful but occasionally a bit of a know all. Possibly went to a minor rodent public school and it still rankles. Capt. Darling in Blackadder Goes Forth?

Otter - Female, 25-40. Greedy, gregarious, fun, easily distracted. An aquatic Dawn French?

Toad - Male, 40+, Ranine and rotund. Boastful, Gluttonous, Clever, Naughty, Manipulative, Childish, Witty, Charming, Playful, Attractive and great, great FUN! Undoubtedly the audience’s favourite. SINGING ROLE.

Albert - Male, Tall, 30+. Brummie. Depressed, Low Energy and Status, would rather be curled up with a good book than pulling a caravan. A real Eeyore - audiences will love him.

Badger - Male, Large, 45-60, RP, possibly heightened RP. Avuncular, jocular, benevolent, the leader of the group, powerful (but with a hint of camp…) A touch of Richard Griffiths in Withnail & I (without the rapaciousness!) Old Harrovian I shouldn’t wonder.

Chief Weasel - Female, 25-50, Possibly RP. The villain. Cunning, clever, snide and with a vicious streak. A nasty piece of work. Coincidentally, also a property developer...

Weasel Norman - Male, 25-50. Her sidekick. A bully. Far from the sharpest weasel in the wood.

The Gaoler’s Daughter - Female, 18-30, Mancunian/Scouse/Geordie might be fun - Scarlett Moffatt perhaps? Affectionate, soft-hearted, but bright with it - what used to be called Saucy. Falls for Toad and helps him escape.

Washerwoman - MALE, 45+, Cockney. Our ‘Dame’. A force of nature...with the smell of it too.

Bargewoman - Female, 40+, Norfolk/West Country I think. As Albert says ‘Virginia Woolf she is not, but she does a fine line in pie and peas’. SINGING ROLE.

Train Driver - Male, 50+. Yorkshire ideally. A simple, good man. No lover of these new fangled motor cars. Channelling Bernard Cribbins in The Railway Children I think.

Gypsy - Male/Female, 45+. West Country, but very slowly spoken. A canny negotiator.

Magistrate - Male, 60+. RP. The classic old duffer role. Servile and ingratiating at the slightest whiff of aristocracy and at the opportunity of a free meal at a country pile. Dispensing English justice at its finest.

Fox - Male/Female, 30+. Heightened RP. A cad and a bounder. Terry Thomas.

 

If you have your eye on a particular smaller role not listed above please read for Otter. Time slots will be allocated to each character to keep hanging around to a minimum - I will direct every auditionee during the casting to provide a few readings.  I am aware the reading and audition dates are at the end of holiday season so if you are interested, but will be away for these two key dates, please contact me - I will provide audition pieces by e-mail to anyone who needs them.

The Auditions will begin with both a short movement rehearsal and a short singing audition, in groups, for all cast members. Whilst we are not looking for dancers there is movement for the entire cast and amongst the main characters for Toad especially. The music and style of the play lends itself to songs being put over so don’t feel discouraged if your singing is not quite to musicals standard…

There are many other small speaking characters (46 in all!) - rabbits, stoats, clerks and salesmen to name but a few. I hope therefore to enable as many people as possible to have one (or several) speaking roles. I’ll decide on doubling after the auditions, depending on the cast size.

The nature of this charming piece, the speed of set changes and the necessity of a limited budget means this will very much be ensemble playing throughout to create and move the cars, trains, barges, caravans and to realise the many different settings. Everyone will be busy and very involved in the whole show.

 

Useful Info!

Rehearsals will take place on two evenings a week (probably Tuesday/Thursday, though not fixed) and on most of the Sundays of the rehearsal period. There will be some additional rehearsals in the week before the production run. I will only call you when you are required, but will endeavour to get the whole cast together at least once a week.

A little background on me as it’s my first directing role at TTC. I directed my last show at HHP in 2009 (Patience for HLOC, Swan Award for Best Musical). Shortly after that I took an MA in Theatre Directing at St Mary’s in Strawberry Hill and have subsequently directed on the fringe at small theatres across London, as well as developing my own work.

Bennett has written an adaptation which deserves the rigour of a proper rehearsal process and I’ll approach this work with the same focus on objective, status and character as I might with any of his work. Good comedy always comes from truthfully portraying the characters in situations - whilst their names might be Mole or Toad their desires, apprehensions and failings are the same ones we all share.

But we also won’t be disappearing down a mole hole of too much complex analysis and pseudo-psychiatric chin scratching! I don’t waste time and never give line readings or ‘block’ movements (other than entrances and exits) before rehearsals, but I will push us all to excel. Rest assured we will work hard, produce an excellent piece of theatre and have enormous fun along the way!

 

I’ll be delighted to answer any questions about my process, the play and how we’ll rehearse at the reading, so please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Matt Beresford

Director

 

Contact Details:  To get in touch with the director before the Reading/Audition, please use the Contact page of this website and your message will be forwarded.

NOTE:   We have an open casting policy:  anyone can audition for our productions and, if cast, will then be required to join as a Full Member. 

 

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