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Interview with Emma Pallant: ‘Ratty’ in The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows at The Rose Theatre KingstonThe Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame – adapted and directed by Ciaran McConville, is at the Rose Theatre Kingston from 6th December 2016, through to 7th January 2017.

When Mole abandons his spring cleaning in search of adventure, little does he expect to be scooped-up by Ratty, Badger, and the irrepressible Toad.

From summer days messing about in boats to an automobile addiction and an evil invasion from the Wild Woods, Mole finds himself hurtling towards the historic Battle for Toad Hall.

A story of friendship and courage, The Wind in the Willows is one of the best-loved books of all time, now brought to the stage in a glittering new production that promises festive madness for all ages and an enchanting ode to the wild banks of the River Thames.

Emma Pallant
Emma Pallant

Emma Pallant who is playing Ratty, chats about her career and The Wind in the Willows.

Q: As well as on stage, you have several television credits. Do you have a favourite screen role to date?
Emma: I recently filmed an episode of Father Brown for the BBC which was great fun to work on. The character I played was dark and tricksy, so really gratifying to play. Period drama is always really enjoyable, so even though Father Brown might only be set in the relatively recent 1950s, watching all the detailed technical work that goes into creating that “time-hop” made it a real pleasure to work on.

Q: You have extensive theatre credits, across the country from Stratford to Shakespeare’s Globe. Could you choose three of your favourites – and what was special about them.

Precious Bane (Pentabus Theatre)
This was such a great project and I think back on it with enormous fondness. It was one of the first lead roles I had played, and a new adaptation for the stage, so it was a real privilege to initiate the role. My character (Prue) had such a brave soul, she completely got under my skin. The beautiful script was written by Bryony Lavery (based on the novel by Mary Webb) and was directed by Theresa Heskins, with whom I have worked several times since, so it was also the beginning of some very rich working relationships. We toured it under the stars, with a huge choir, sublime music, breathtaking countryside, an incredible script, a brilliant story – and a horse! I’m sure there must have been bad weather and difficult days, but I remember it as an entirely joyful experience.

As You Like It (Globe)
I played the role of Jaques, which although written as ‘Monsieur’ I got to play as ‘Madame’. Much apart from being a really great character, it was just very liberating to play a character I’d previously never even imagined playing, reinventing her for a new production. One of the exciting things about the movement towards an increase in cross-gender casting is that as roles become more fluid, and are framed more imaginatively, a whole new canon of work opens up in front of you. I went from a position of all but crossing off Shakespearean roles for women – running out of parts the older I got – to suddenly having the chance to play Jaques. That production, and that role, ended up being an unknown dream come true; its particular mix of wit, poetry, melancholy, and philosophy is one you don’t commonly find in classical roles for women. And then of course, there’s ‘that speech’ – All the world’s a stage. What a privilege to speak those words on the Globe stage. That experience will live with me for a long time.

Pedro the Great Pretender (RSC)
This was the culmination of The Golden Age season at the RSC. An ensemble of twenty actors performed in four plays, Pedro being the last one we worked on together. It was an incredible company of people, many of whom have remained close friends. The production of Pedro was particularly special to me as it was directed by Mike Alfreds, who is one of the most inspirational practitioners I’ve worked with, and remains a huge influence. Also, very simply, it was really good fun to perform.

Q: You are cast in the role of ‘Ratty’ in The Wind In The Willows at The Rose Theatre, Kingston. How are rehearsals?
Emma: Rehearsals are going well! It’s a huge undertaking – apart from the practical business of rehearsing such an ambitious show, with a large cast of young performers, bringing this classic tale to life comes with real responsibility. I think it’s going to be a beautiful production: as all the elements come together it gets richer by the day.

Q: What can you tell us about Ratty?
Emma: Playing Ratty is great fun, but again it’s a challenge and a responsibility, being such a well-loved character but also a new incarnation of a traditionally male role. But it’s the essence of Ratty that’s really important, I think, and I imagine a lot of people can identify with the character; someone who finds delight in the pleasures of life, wants to be content and comfortable, for things to remain just as they’ve always been, but as a result is reluctant to look at unpleasant truths and fears that lurk in the shadows. I think there’s a little of that in all of us. Through the story, Ratty finds courage in her friendships, and that’s a universal tale that everyone can relate to.

Q: What are you looking forward to most with the production?
Emma: I’m really looking forward to getting into the theatre with the full spectrum of production elements – and also to putting it in front of an audience: a play is never complete until the audience arrive.

Q: What do you enjoy most about being in a production over Christmas?
Emma: This is the first Christmas production I’ll have ever performed in, so the experience is a new one to me, but I can already see that the company is going to be like one great big family – I imagine it’ll feel incredibly Christmassy.

Q: Why should everyone get along to see this production of The Wind In The Willows?
Emma: It’s a classic story with a fresh coat of paint. There’s a fantastic design, it’s packed with energy, iconic characters, great friendships, picnics, boats, cars, prison breaks, laughter, tears, songs, fights, dancing rabbits and snowball fights. What’s not to love about that?

Emma Pallant’s theatre credits include Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Comedy of Errors and Macbeth (Shakespeare’s Globe), It Just Stopped and Alison’s House (Orange Tree Theatre), On Golden Pond and The Herbal Bed (Salisbury Playhouse), The Cherry OrchardHis Dark Materials and Katherine Desouza (Birmingham Rep), The Spanish Golden Age SeasonHenry IV Parts I and II and Laughter in the Dark(RSC) and Cymbeline (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre).

The Wind in the Willows
Rose Theatre Kingston
24-26 High Street, Kingston, London, KT1 1HL

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  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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