‘The Wind in the Willows’: Local Production Review


I have removed the names of children mentioned in this – and have also taken out the photograph which showed some of them in action. Other than that, this review is exactly as I first wrote it.

Leather Jackets, Videos and Classic Childhood Pleasure…

Sheer delight from start to finish, and a brilliant blend of modern technology and the old-fashioned wonder of Kenneth Grahame’s original, Wrington Drama Club and Junior Drama Club’s  recent production of ‘The Wind in the Willows’ was visually stunning, beautifully acted and a true blast of nostalgia for so many of us.

The set was wonderful – and I adored the musicians perched up high. The music, composed by David Tisdall and Rachel Mason, was great and suited the storyline well. The use of still photographs and often-hilarious videos was inspired: They added depth and layers of meaning to the acting, and allowed us to feel that we were actually a part of the whole thing. What a talent we have in Neil Phillips!

The leather-jacket-clad weasels worked so well – both as a team and an up-to-date concept of Wild Woodishness. Caroline Rodaway, as the Chief Weasel, was both menacing and funky, with an off-beat charm and that amazing singing voice which resounded so splendidly around the hall. Her two second-in –command weaselettes, played convincingly by K.P and C. W, backed her up very well.

Who could possibly forget Tom Henry’s fabulous Welsh accent – so apt for Mole – which gave such warmth to an already-endearing character and which he managed to maintain even during his solos. His hand-wringing nervousness and down-slanted head created that essential Molishness brilliantly. Great singing voice too!

Michael Berkeley could have been, and possibly was, born to play the part of Toad: What a grand combination of effrontery, braggadocio, stubbornness and utter, stomach-wrenchingly funny, Toadishness. He managed to suggest a multi-layered character so well, showing Toad’s basic good nature in amongst all the less desirable traits.

Alan Milne was a lovely Ratty – and how fine it was to see three generations of Milnes Treading the Thespian Boards: Pat, Alan himself, Stephanie as a superbly screeching Bargewoman and M. as Hedgehog.

David Simpson made a sonorous and appropriately jurisprudential Badger. Those deep mellifluous tones, and the heavy halting movements, worked perfectly for the part.

Adam Hall was a lively and slightly Public-School-Twittish Otter – again, perfect reading of the minor-made-major part.

The Wild Wooders – both good and not-so-good! – were enchantingly portrayed by members of the Junior Club. From sweet rabbits, through feisty hedgehogs and rebellious weasels, they were a pleasure to watch. It was particularly impressive the way they all stayed in role, and actively acted their parts, throughout.

All credit to Julie Kingcott, and her husband, Richard, who directed and produced this visual feast, this smorgasbord of talent and super-fine acting.

I leave the best till last: Almost immediately, I forgot that I was watching a local play – and became so immersed in the whole thing that I felt as if I were spying upon real creatures in a very real slice of British countryside – and, when the rabbits threw fake snow at the audience at the end, I had to blink my eyes and persuade myself that reality was, in fact, Wrington’s Memorial Hall!

Congratulations all!

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