The Wind in the Willows
Kenneth Grahame, adapted by Richard Williams
An Anvil Arts Production
Haymarket Theatre Basingstoke
Kenneth Grahame's endearing tale of life on the riverbank is lovingly brought to life in Richard Williams' winsome adaption of The Wind in the Willows at the Haymarket Theatre in Basingstoke.
This classic tale is the perfect alternative to pantomime as we follow the adventures of the ebullient pompous Mr Toad, strongly played by Mathew Woodyatt, as he passionately pursues his latest fad.
Director Richard Williams has interpreted the characters of Mole, Ratty Toad and Badger as more human than animal which was a little disappointing. How can Toad not be rotund?
However Mole, the delightful Martina Horrigan, matches up to the images from the original book and what a captivating performance she gave as she discovers the joys and terrors of the wild wild wood and the riverbank.
The exuberant chorus who played the weasels and stoats all dressed in tartan trousers were both terrific and terrifying.
The rather superior Ratty, excellently played by Neil Roberts takes Mole on a journey down the river in a splendid paper boat made out of musical scores - a magic moment. They meet Toad whose latest craze is caravanning and exploring the open road with Ian Harris as the put-upon horse.
But Toad soon changes to a more modern method of transport when he discovers the motorcar. But his latest journey ends in disaster when his car breaks down and he is attacked by the wild wooders and gets lost in the woods.
Toad is out of control and steals a car and ends up in front of the Magistrate (Joe Carey) and is found guilty and sent to prison for 20 years. However he eventually escapes thanks to the help of the jailer's daughter (Jo Castleton) who disguises him as a washerwoman.
Ratty and Mole seek the help of the wise old Badger (Andy Rashleigh) to control Toad's misdemeanours but when he learns that the weasels and stoats have taken over Toad Hall they conspire to devise a plan to use the secret passage to reclaim Toad's home and the ensuing battle is great fun to watch.
David Collis's simple set consisting of moveable cut out silhouettes of trees, prison bars and panels to represent Toad Hall is stark and beautifully lit by Stephen Holroyd.
This Wind in the Willows is delightful family entertainment performed by a talented cast and as Toad would say, "Poop Poop" - book now you will not be disappointed.
Runs until 2nd January
Reviewer: Robin Strapp