SHAKA Cook was an adult when he first read beloved children’s storybook, The Wind in the Willows, but none of the magic or wonder was lost on the actor.
“All these different friends – Ratty, Badger, Mole and Toad – come together and learn how to love and respect one another,” Cook said.
“I like that message of true friendship.”
The Pilbara-born performer now stars in a one-man adaption of the classic Edwardian English novel, following the four woodlands creatures around the river, Wild Woods and beyond.
“Taking on every role is fun, exciting and fast-paced,” Cook said.
“It’s challenging having to shift quickly from one character to the next and keep the story plodding along, as well as the dialogue, so it sounds like those characters are actually having a conversation with one another.
“Another challenge is trying to make all the actions work for everybody in their own little journey and switching between them vocally and physically without bleeding them too much into each other.
“It all comes down to my creativity and imagination and trying to convince the audience that I am Toad, Ratty, Badger or Mole at that point.”
Cook said he wanted children to leave the show with the idea they could be friends with someone unlike themselves.
“Nowadays, society is all about saying ‘That person is different’ and then people become so judgemental,” he said.
“But in this show you’ve got friends – vastly different creatures – and they are there for each other, even if one friend can be a little over the top.”
Cook, who has appeared in TV series such as The Broken Shore, left the Pilbara after high school, coming to Perth in 2009 to study Aboriginal Theatre at WAAPA.
He then went on to NIDA in Sydney and now resides in Brisbane.
“I miss my family in WA a lot but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. Hopefully, they can be proud of the work I do,” Cook said.
“I want to show them that there is something different out there and if my success does kick off, that makes a beautiful story: a boy from the bush, from the heart of the bush, having nothing to do with the arts and now being part of it.”
What: The Wind in the Willows
When and where: June 17, Octagon Theatre, UWA and June 22, Mandurah Performing Arts Centre
Tickets: www.ticketswa.com and www.manpac.com.au