Herald arts caught up with David Mears who is playing the part of Toad in the Bear Pit Theatre’s festive family offering, Toad of Toad Hall, which opens at the Stratford theatre Friday
You performed Toad of Toad Hall in 2010, tell us why you’ve revived it now? Up until now The Bear Pit Theatre Company have performed a number of festive themed production (A Christmas Carol, Vicar of Dibley, Ayckbourn’s Seasons Greeting) but this year we felt that our focus should be on a family production. Everyone seems to be doing pantomimes at this time of year, but we wanted to produce something different, something fun and imaginative for all ages and so Toad of Toad Hall and director Nicky Cox seemed to be the perfect choices. There are a couple of us from our original production who will be starring in this version, but the rest of the cast and creatives are brand new, which makes it even more exciting to work on. It is also being performed in a much more intimate space, which I think will help with the magic and storytelling.
Tell us about the appeal of the play. The production will appeal to all ages; there is lots of silliness, lots of running around and at the heart of the production a charming story based on Kenneth Grahame’s book that has endured for nearly 100 years.
Tell us about playing Toad — how you think of him… how you ‘become’ him. Toad is bonkers. He has a loveable Tigger quality about him that is similar to Bottom from A Midsummer Night’s Dream; but unlike Bottom [David played Bottom in this year’s RSC production], Toad comes from the Upper Classes, he is gentry stock, the public school boy who has never grown up and he has plenty of money to burn on his ridiculous antics. He is the amphibian version of Boris Johnson. As a child, I fondly remember watching David Jason’s, Toad, which he voiced for a Cosgrove and Hall stop-animation film. David’s voice has been incredibly influential on me as an actor and certainly when performing my version of Toad; there are lot of nods to his performance and joyous vocal range.
This Saturday you are doing three performances in one day. It’s a very energetic play, have you lost your marbles? I have never performed three shows back to back on one day and it was my stupid idea to schedule such a theatrical feat! The decision has paid off, as the daytime performances has sold extremely well. HOWEVER, I am not sure how all of us will fair after the end of the third show. Thankfully we have the Sunday and Monday off to recoup, but I am secretly looking forward to all doing three. Hopefully I will have a voice left! Poop! Poop!
How are you doing the car scenes? Oh my! The car scenes are my favourite, particularly when Toad crashes. You will see my inner clown being released, with lots of silly noises and funny faces. After each performance, I hope that everyone leaves the theatre pretending to me a motor car.
What would Toad like for Christmas? Well, I think Toad has moved on from motor cars… so a Tiger Moth Biplane! Now that is the way to travel! The only way to travel! Here tomorrow… in the middle of next week tomorrow!
Where and when: Toad of Toad Hall is on at the Bear Pit Theatre, Rother Street, Stratford, from 2nd to 10th December, with day and evening performances. Tickets are £12, £6 for under 18s, and £10 concessions and available from www.thebearpit.org.uk or the RSC box office on 01789 403416.