London Palladium, London – until 9 September 2017
The Wind in the Willows is a perfectly fun, family show. It’s not a theatrical masterpiece but it’s a cute, heartwarming fable that’s sweet enough for both children and adults to enjoy. Adapted by Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey) with music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (Half a Sixpence), The Wind in the Willows is an old school tale given a modern twist. We follow Ratty and his new friend Mole as they venture around the countryside trying to hide from the evil of the Wild Wood and help their friend Mr. Toad curve his need for speed. It’s a show which is quintessentially
British:lazing by the river, watching the swallows returning home for summer, seeing animals foraging in the woods, each scene conjures up the good old English countryside.
The pastoral feel of the production is guided by the sets and costumes by Peter McKintosh, with each area and animal having its own unique “style” and each set piece combining perfectly to create the world of human-like animals which is both distinctive and mystical. Each animal is instantly recognisable without being too in your face animal. The set also strikes a good balance between being enough of a spectacle whilst still leaving enough room for your imagination to roam a little wild.
Simon Lipkin’s Ratty is suitably funny and stern and despite not being a huge belting role, he really shows off his voice and beautiful tone. Craig Mather has wonderful chemistry with Lipkin as Ratty’s partner in crime, Mole. He is the perfect mix of innocence and strength and is pretty perfect in the role. Another sweet and funny character is Mrs Otter played by Denise Welch although we never do find out what happened to her husband! Thankfully some contrast to the sweetness is brought with the baddie of the show, Chief Weasel played by Neill McDermott who is very reminiscent of Rooster in Annie. The Weasel scenes are my personal favourites and add a nice sharpness to the otherwise same level show. The ensemble are tight and bring a lot to the show. An audience favourite seemed to be the adorable hedgehog family who sing a lovely little ditty about the trouble of crossing the road.
Aletta Collins’ choreography fits exactly, adding not only dimension but humour to the show. Especially so with the tap dancing horse!
Of course I have to mention Mr Toad played by Rufus Hound who is great in the role. He is over the top and dramatic but actually very good. I was surprised at how good his voice is and really do think he’s the perfect choice for the role.
The Wind in the Willows is good family fun which is certain to leave a smile on your face and at least one song in your head. It’s simple, charming and exactly what it says on the tin, what more could you ask for for a family theatre trip?