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Interview: Anna Fox & Eleanor Bull

We recently chatted to Wind in the Willow’s Director, Anna Fox, and Costume and Set Designer, Eleanor Bull, to find out more about their vision for the show.

Anna is a Director, Dramaturg and Writer. She is currently Associate Director of & Juliet the Musical, and has worked on productions including Sleepless: A Musical Romance, Matilda the Musical, and Merry’s Christmas Adventure. Eleanor is an award-winning Set & Costume Designer who in 2017 won the Linbury Prize for Stage Design and has since been nominated for the Evening Standard Future Theatre Award.

Hi guys! Tell us more about your inspiration for the show…

AF: “Eleanor and I began our concept for the set design by finding images of locations around Taunton and the surrounding areas: the banks of the River Tone, its stately homes, its bridges… we want the visuals of the show to reflect the local environment, and so audiences will see some familiar sights as the play unfolds. It’s such a beautiful area, we wouldn’t have wanted to miss that opportunity.

We spent a brilliant few days in Taunton auditioning and our local youth ensemble have begun rehearsals. I’m excited to work with our artists to explore which elements of the story speak to their experience of living in Taunton, to look back on Taunton’s history, draw upon the stories we find, and to bring some local flavours and sounds to these well-loved characters. I’m looking forward to exploring how we can use every bit of the Brewhouse theatre space – and perhaps even a bit of magic – to bring this story to life.”

EB: “As there’s so many different locations, owing to the adventurous spirit throughout Wind in the Willows, I had to design a set that is versatile and can transport the audience to new places with ease. I’m a big fan of seeing all that stagecraft happen on stage: as an audience member I love feeling that I’m in on the trick.”

That sounds amazing! How do you plan on bringing the characters to life?

EB: Wind in the Willows is a gift to a Costume Designer. What I love about the text is that the personality of each character is very much defined and embodied by the type of animal they are: timid Mole, gruff Badger, ostentatious Toad – these are characteristics lifted from how we perceive these creatures to behave in the animal kingdom. But we’re not strictly in the animal kingdom, Wind in the Willows sits somewhere in between: a world where moles live in holes, but toads drive cars! So, when it comes to designing costumes, you can lean as heavily or lightly as you want on the presence of the animal’s features. The important thing is to ensure the costumes are conveying an accurate sense of character above all else. These characters are so well-engrained into our collective memories, that designing for Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad feels like getting to know old friends.

Mr. Toad has been my favourite so far, designing him is like dressing Elton John – you can be pretty out there! Plus, he tends to get a lot of costume changes because of his many escapades throughout the story. I also have a lot of affection for Mole, he’s the real protagonist of the piece and there’s something very touching about his quest to overcome his natural wariness and really engage with the world. There’s a bit more nuance and subtlety to Mole, so I’ve loved designing him too.”

AF: “What we all love so much about this adaptation of Wind in the Willows is that, at its heart is a story of friendship, understanding and finding your people. At a time when connection feels so important, I’m excited for our audiences to come together and share in that. And of course, it wouldn’t be a Christmas show without a bit of snow…”

Wind in the Willows runs from 11 December 2021 – 2 January 2022.
Tickets on sale now – buy yours here!