No childhood is complete without Kenneth Grahame’s beloved animal characters – everyone remembers the innocence of the countryside jaunts, not to mention the thrill of Toad’s daring exploits.
This year, all of the magic of The Wind in the Willows is brought to life by the Royal Opera House in this stunning production directed and choreographed by Will Tuckett. First performed in 2002, the story is now running in the West End just in time for the festive season.
Yet this is no ballet or even a pantomime, but a beautiful show like no other. Combining dance, storytelling, singing and even comedy, this is one of the most magical productions I have seen all year.
Will Tuckett’s choreography is sublime and Martin Ward’s score really gives the story warmth and life: George Butterworth’s music perfectly captures the magical serenity of the English countryside, whilst Ward’s original music provides the drama for the battle scenes at Toad Hall.
Alan Titchmarsh is an inviting Narrator, welcoming us all with open arms and sharing his story with the true warmth of an author – sorry, magician – who wants to introduce us to the friends his imagination has made, as he sits alone in his attic (which becomes the riverbank, the animals’ home and even the open road).
Who could refuse the sweet but shy Mole (Sonya Cullingford), the enthusiastic and friendly Ratty (Martin Harvey) or the stoic but kind-hearted Badger (Ira Mandela Siobhan)? And what of the nincompoop Toad (Cris Penfold), whose face breaks into a Grinch-like smile, only to be replaced by a sad face you’re more likely to see on a naughty toddler?
The woodland creatures with their woolly ears and hats are adorable and even the Weasels bring a smile to the audience’s face, especially the cute but sinister puppets!
It was charming, it was mesmerising, it was magical.
Reviewed by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Wind In The Willows is playing at the Vaudeville Theatre until 17 January 2015. Click here for tickets.