[2011096] Mr Badger tells the story of The Wind in the Willows

Mr Badger tells the story of The Wind in the Willows

Splash Theatre Company @ Santos Conservation Centre, Adelaide Zoo

1:00pm, Sat 5 Mar 2011

It’s my first time out to the Zoo in years, despite having wandered past it at least a thousand times as I walked into the city from my previous abode in North Adelaide. I’d certainly never been in the Conservation Centre there before, and managed to have a good stickybeak around the Nest Series visual art display that was there before a Mr Badger arrived.

Now, Mr Badger knows how to tell a story, and – once he’d settled the children, explained what a badger was, and painted the picture of a willowy riverbank – he launches into the story of The Wind in the Willows with a gentle earnestness and great animation in his face. Of course, the story is told from his perspective, so there’s a bit of a change-up for those familiar with the story, but otherwise it’s familiar material.

Clad in tweed and looking very English, the appropriately stout Mr Badger would occasionally open one of his accompanying suitcases to expose a simple diorama, into which he would place small figurines of the characters. That’s lovely and all, but not really beneficial in a setting such as this; it’s impossible to appreciate the fine detail of the sets and figures from afar.

Now – I don’t envy anyone who wants to perform in front of children – or certainly, these children. Attention spans that saw them shifting their gaze all over the increasingly sticky Conservation Centre function room would have driven me insane; parents fawning over the youngsters with juice boxes and biscuits didn’t really help. But Mr Badger (Chris John) stuck with it, keeping their interest up by getting them performing animal noises, and there were moments where the children genuinely got swept up in the tale… but disappointingly, there were many more moments where they didn’t give the performer the attention he warrants… or deserved.

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