Coming from Metta Theatre, and with all the potential for a West End transfer, is a modern re-imagining of the classic Kenneth Grahame story. In The Willows, written and directed by Poppy Burton-Morgan and with music from Pippa Cleary and Keiran Merrick, injects the traditional tale with hip hop, grime, rap lyrics and dance battles. Reaching out to a diverse youth audience it succeeds in speaking to its entire audience.
The story follows Mole (Victoria Boyce), a timid and quiet girl, who once again has had to change her high school and makes her way to The Willows. Challenged with making new friends and fitting in, she hopes that her new teacher Mr Badger (Clive Rowe) will look after and help her. He does, but not in the way she imagined. He cleverly convinces the “cool kids” of the class, Rattie and Otter (Zara MacIntosh and Chris Fonseca), to involve her in the school’s social life.
Although she is reluctant to speak out, and isn’t keen on dance battles, which are a must in the Willows, Mole has a good heart which is quickly recognised by her classmates. But just when she is starting to come out of her shell, her new friend Toad (Harry Jardine) is sent to prison, Mole feels guilty and tries to help but ends up doing more damage than good.
In The Willows shows us different challenges, the struggles and the joys that many teenagers face in high school. The cool kids, the mean girls and the street hooligans, contrasting characters that are facing the same problems that growing up brings. The privileged kid facing jail, the girl from the slum getting into an elite college, and many more. An already exciting story is filled with harmonic duets, energetic choreography and seemingly spontaneous dance battles. They succeed in making the show accessible, bringing sign language into the choreography, and including a BSL interpreter a part of the show.
The strong connections that the actors sharing the stage have is easily noticeable. Every single one of them went out of their way to make the performance energetic, keeping the audience more than entertained.
In The Willows is a truly inspiring and courageous story infused with a modern score and choreography, which is thoroughly enjoyable to watch. It is currently on its national tour, and if you love fun, energetic shows which take you on an emotional journey, this is undoubtedly one that shouldn’t be missed.