ILLYRIA’s Wind in the Willows was one of the highlights of summer 2020, a colourful, funny show that told the beloved story well, and featured a brilliant Mr (Boris Johnson) Toad. We took a friend with two young children for their first ever open-air show and they loved it.
This year, we took another friend with two similar-aged children to Castle Gardens, Sherborne, to see The Further Adventures of Dr Doolittle, one of Illyria’s 2021 shows (the others are Much Ado About Nothing, Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore).
The new show, a sequel to the previous Adventures of Dr Doolittle, seemed the best choice for the children. We knew from previous Illyria visits that there would be plenty of wit and the odd bit of well-disguised political comment to keep the adults amused.
The first Dr Doolittle told Hugh Lofting’s tale of the animal doctor who learns from a parrot called Polynesia how to talk to the animals. It followed the adventures he has with his animal friends, always strapped for cash but winning through.
In the Further Adventures, the doctor (Edward Simpson) and his chums, Polynesia (Paula Brett), Too Too the owl (Nisha Anil), Dab Dab the duck (Paula again), Jip the dog (Jora Singh) and Gub Gub the pig (Callum Stewart) have plenty of money, thanks to the success of Dr Doolittle’s circus.
What the doctor doesn’t have is time – for his friends or the book he wants to write. Every time he sits down to write, there is a new creature to be helped or rescued, including the endearing bright green canary Pippinella (Nisha) and the evicted rodents.
So what does he do? He goes to the moon. Of course. Where else? How he gets there (or back) and what he finds there are all part of the fun.
It’s delightful silly stuff, which kept the young members of the audience laughing out loud, while the brilliantly worded songs provided entertainment for parents and older Illyria fans in the walled garden venue. We particularly loved the Cheese Rap and the rodents’ hilarious commentary on current affairs.
It’s a show about love and friendship, about caring for anyone in need, about welcoming strangers and how time spent with our friends – four-legged, feathered, flying, two-legged or crawling – is more important than saving time. But the message is wrapped up in so much laughter and brilliant puppetry and silly songs that it never sounds like preaching!
Illyria will be back at Sherborne with the other shows, and there are lots of dates around our region – visit www.illyria.co.uk