Rain or shine, this rabbit is no bunny
Rosco Mathers has been playing Rabbit in Wind in the Willows. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones
FOR the past 20 years, Rats, Toads, Moles and Badgers have come and gone in the Botanic Gardens, but every summer Roscoe Mathers has returned to reprise Head Chief Rabbit. The veteran bunny has anchored the outdoor production of The Wind in the Willows for so long that he's seen the children of director Glenn Elston grow up.
He's also withstood nature in all its disruptive glory. Through dreary drizzle and ferocious heat the show has gone on, but one Australia Day performance tested the cast to the limit.
“The gardens were infested with fruit bats,” he recalls. “We had a massive crowd so it was already hard enough to be heard, and every time the jets went overhead to celebrate Australia Day, the bats rose in the air and shrieked. The noise and smell were terrible. We had to stop the show and wait 10 minutes for them to settle down."
Still, he's a nimble bunny, describing himself as more circus performer and roving clown than actor. It falls to Head Chief Rabbit to shelter children from the rain and to keep the music flowing. When toddlers wander onstage or adults overdo the picnic drinks, that's when Mathers hops to it.
“With a background as a street performer I'm used to all sorts of unpredictable things happening, and whatever people throw at us, they'll come off second best."
The Wind in the Willows is at Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne from December 28 to January 26.