Wind in the Willows

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The Wind in the Willows West Yorkshire Playhouse Tuesday December 4

Of all the Christmas shows The Wind in the Willows has got to be the one that is enjoyed equally by children and ‘grown ups’, and Kenneth Grahame’s tale of life on the riverbank, in the wild woods and at Toad Hall adapted by Alan Bennett provided a magical evening for a full West Yorkshire Playhouse.

A versatile set, made possible by the revolving stage, allowed us to visit Ratty’s neat, shipshape little house, Mole’s slightly more untidy dwelling and Badger’s cosy underground home, not to mention the magnificent Toad Hall, added to which there was a rowing boat, caravan. motor car and train, all in full working order! Designer Colin Richmond is to be congratulated.

Music played an integral part in the performance with accordion, saxophone, violins played with enthusiasm and skill by various members of the cast, plus the charming voices of the younger actors playing rabbits, field mice, hedgehogs and squirrels. The rendition of In the Bleak Midwinter was lovely.

Joe Alessi’s shy, Mole with his flat cap and northern accent was a perfect foil for the dapper, well spoken Ratty played with great style by Jack Lord and Tony Jayawardena was suitably avuncular as Badger. Paul Kemp was great as the ebullient, easily lead Toad, lurching from one crisis to another to the despair of his friends. It was a master stroke to portray the evil stoats, weasels and ferrets from the wild wood as Cockney wide boys, I especially liked Weasel Norman. Although all the performances were excellent I have to confess that my favourite was Tom Jude’s lugubrious Brummie horse Albert.

Kenneth Grahame’s story of a gentler way of life has been brought up to date by Alan Bennett and his dry humour is never far away.

Director Ian Brown and his team have certainly excelled themselves, this is performance not to be missed.

Jane Soar