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Money-Go-Round

by on 1 June 2022

Toadonomics

Money-Go-Round

by Roger McGough, after Kenneth Grahame, music by Steve Halliwell

OSO at the OSO Arts Centre, Barnes until 5th June

Review by Heather Moulson

I was curious about this Children’s piece, a new musical written by Roger McGough, based on The Wind in the Willows.   I really liked the warm greeting of a bold and colourful set and that the plot was exactly what the title said, concerning a gold piece coin that was handed around a wealth of characters, a morality tale of economics with the mischievous Toad being the catalyst of this full circle plot.

If the story doesn’t appeal, then the simple yet vibrant set design will.  Designer Emma Turner brings the rustic charm of her native Cumbria to create incredible bold sets and props, crafted solely from recycled materials.  Scene changing was geared to, and efficiently handled by, the cast.  Simplicity was the key, with actors only having small indications of their animal traits; and that was more than enough.  Their strong performances conveyed clearly which iconic animal they were.

Sinister weasels, the bullish badger and charismatic water rat, all with their hearts in the right place, defined themselves with an actor’s skill.  Despite Mr Toad’s arrogance and opportunism, he is still virtuous. These roles were played with humour and wit, particularly Emily Windham as Lord Winkle, and the highly watchable Gavin Fleming as Mr Toad.  They were beautifully supported by Laura Pujos, as Lavender Mole.

Walter Rat, played by Andras Horvath, was presented with grace and charm.  Joanna Clarke was extraordinarily versatile in all she did, while Howard Crossley, who has a strong stage presence, played variously Basil Badger, Chief Weasel and Justice Bull, all with great charisma and personality.

These performers, being accomplished musicians and singers, carried forth the production smoothly, making for a full hour of pure magic.  However, some songs worked better than others, and sometimes were in danger of slowing down the consistency, but the camaraderie, humour and sincerity still pulled it together.

Money-Go-Round was originally written as a book and published in 2020.  Having adapted it as the present musical, McGough eschewed the big block-busting venues for its premiere and, instead decided to just go out of his front door and, in his own words, “walk across Barnes Green and have a chat with Jonny Danciger”.   He was referring to the OSO Arts Centre and its Artistic Director, whom he chose as director for the piece.

In the spirt of keeping it in the family, McGough chose Steve Halliwell, from their own group LITTLe MACHINe, to compose the score.

Everything works beautifully together, the sharp and detailed direction of Jonny Danciger, Emma Turner’s wonderful designs, and songs composed thoughtfully and beautifully by Steve Halliwell and performed with Walter Wray, whom I have previously enjoyed playing in LITTLe MACHINe, with Chris Hardy, the third member of the group.

Money-Go-Round is a strong piece of writing by Roger McGough, with his simple and so effective plot and morals.   A great innovation, it is magical for children and nostalgic for adults.

Heather Moulson, May 2022

Photography by Giacomo Giannelli

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