The world-famous Wilton’s Music Hall and the children’s classic The Wind in the Willows make perfect bedfellows. Piers Torday has written a version that brings together music, singing, dancing, puppetry and acting to offer a welcome addition to the holiday season’s traditional offerings of panto, A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker. The show tells the story of the river animals Mole, Ratty, Badger and Toad but with an environmental take which locates the action in contemporary London with the river bank under siege from construction work. Wilton’s itself is a protected building so hosting this conservation-themed Wind in the Willows makes perfect sense. The second connection that unites the two is friendship. As the animals forge bonds of loyalty in their fight against the Weasels so Wilton’s aims to create friendship networks between cast, crew, creatives and audiences at this unique venue, the only remaining Music Hall in the world. The third connection is music. The show is in part a musical and this obviously chimes with the history of Wilton’s.
The creative team have done a good job in adapting this 1908 classic for today. Time and again they make original and imaginative connections. In this way, they keep pretty much to the storyline but in a 2022 context. For example, the wicked weasels are construction workers in hard hats and hi-viz clothing. Elizabeth Freestone the director and Tom Piper the designer have a clear, compelling and coherent vision of how to make the story work for audiences today.
This Wind in the Willows is very much a forward-looking show. It wants to create energy for action today not nostalgia for a lost past. In this sense, it is a show with a definite message. It’s a call to arms. Defend the environment, defend the planet before it’s too late. It does at times – Melody Brown’s Badger song for example – cross the line into agitprop but on the whole, it maintains a fine balance between the preachy and the entertaining. The writing also has enough self-awareness not to take itself too seriously. Mole – Corey Montague Sholay – has some nice wry asides in this regard. And Ratty – Rosie Wyatt- has a lovely moment when she threatens to torture the Weasels with a ukulele. The environmental theme is well done. All the obvious points are forcefully made but there is humour too. The Weasel Water company is a nice touch. And in the play’s most mysterious scene the figure of Pan is evoked in a hauntingly mesmerising soundscape.
The cast are all highly talented and can sing, dance, act and play musical instruments. Tom Chapman enjoys himself as the chief weasel. Mole is beautifully captured by Corey Montague Sholay. Rosie Wyatt is a lively cockney Ratty. Melody Brown is a grumpy old Badger with badges. The stand-out performance, inevitably given the character of Toad, is from Darrell Brockis. A Harry Enfield lookalike he is excellent. He captures wonderfully Toad’s loveable rogue character. He is given lots of up-to-date toys to play with.
Review by John O’Brien
Poop, Poop. The show is packed with song and dance routines , some better than others. The Hot Otter by Chris Nayak is slick and the Duck Aerobics is great fun. The show is a tad – tadpole- too long after the interval, I would have preferred it ten minutes shorter. Also in a show which is proud to be green why the need for the dry ice machine ? It adds nothing to the magic on the contrary it sucks the air out of the auditorium and makes it hard to breathe.
A brand-new adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s much loved The Wind in the Willows by award-winning children’s author Piers Torday (The Last Wild series) comes to Wilton’s this Christmas.
Set in modern-day London our story starts in Hyde Park during the spring time, with the adventure unfolding as it moves along the Thames and through the seasons, ending back at Mole’s home in time for Christmas and carols – but only if Toad Hall can be saved from the weasels and their ferret and stoat accomplices…
Darrell Brockis – Toad
Melody Brown – Badger
Tom Chapman – Weasel
Paula James – Duck
Corey Montague Sholay – Mole
Chris Nayak – Otter
Rosie Wyatt – Rat
Adam Redmore – Understudy (Mole, Rat, Badger, Toad)
Writer – Piers Torday
Director – Elizabeth Freestone
Associate Director – Joanna Bowman
Designer – Tom Piper
Lighting Designer – Zoe Spurr
Composer and Sound Designer – Chris Warner
Movement Director – Emma Brunton
Puppetry Designer – Samuel Wyer
Casting Director – Helena Palmer
Assistant Director – Segen Yosef
Recommended age 5+
Running time: 2 hours including an interval
World Premiere presented by Wilton’s Music Hall
24th November to 31st December 2022