A smoke machine, hydraulic lift and a flying Toad helped turn the hall at St Wilfrid’s school into a fully-fledged theatre for their production of Wind in the Willows.
The musical, based on Kenneth Grahame’s much– loved classic, marked a decade of outstanding productions – and revisited the first performance under the direction of James Hadden.
Over five showings between March 1 and 4, the audience joined Ratty, Badger, Mole and the impulsive Toad as they embarked on a series of riotous adventures, all spiralling from the latter’s insatiable need for speed.
Emilia Zelewicz was outstanding in her comic portrayal of Toad along with fantastic performances from Albie Campbell as Ratty, David Oppong as Badger and Dominic Smith as Mole.
The cast consisted of 50 students who sang, danced and acted their way through this fantastic story of adventure, friendship and consequences.
Behind the scenes there was a live band of seven students led by musical director Debbie Betts, and another 14 students involved in the tech team led by Josh Smith.
Mr Smith and his team built the set using recycled production sets and props from previous productions.
With clever set design using a hydraulic platform with built in ‘up lighting’ and with Emilia wearing a harness for the whole of the first half of the play, Toad flew!
Emilia said: “The overall experience of being part of this year’s production was absolutely fantastic. It was hard work but very exciting and incredibly rewarding.
“Mr Hadden gave me a lot of freedom to experiment with the characterisation of Toad, I knew if I had got it right if I made him laugh or write notes!
“Working with all the cast and crew was great as we all got to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and supported each other from the very first rehearsal.
“We were all nervous when it came to show week but we never failed to make each other laugh and have fun. It was like being part of one big family.
“The feedback I received from the audience was brilliant. It was an incredible feeling to know that the audience loved watching the show as much as we did performing it and I am eternally grateful for this experience.”
Another great prop was the campfire which, with the clever use of two lights, a smoke machine and another hydraulic lift, gave the effect of a smouldering log fire.
The caravan and the barge were actually the same prop. When placed upright it became the caravan and when horizontal became the barge and the rowing boat which was pulled along stage on a wire.
Headteacher Michael Ferry said: “The school productions are a high point of the school year. Once again, after all the hard work and eager anticipation, the students have excelled themselves.
“I must say a huge thank you to the dedicated team of staff, led notably by Mr James Hadden, who continue to ensure that school productions at St Wilfrid’s go from strength to strength.
“As their headteacher, it makes me so proud to know that they have worked so hard to maximise their talents and in doing so reinforce the growing reputation of St Wilfrid’s.
“This is their school, their production and, in my eyes, they are brilliant!”
On the opening night, the original cast were invited back to see the new production.
All ticket sales went to Macmillan Cancer Care, the school’s chosen charity, raising £936.67, including donations.
Director James Hadden said: “This year’s production of Wind in the Willows has been of particular importance to me marking 10 years of directing the shows and 14 years of teaching at St Wilfrid’s.
“However, none of it would have been possible without the vast team of students and staff who commit to our production week, many of them giving up their half term and committing to long days and late nights.
“I have been bowled over by the commitment and the want to be involved from the staff, students and even ex-students this year and it has made the whole thing a very humbling experience.”