REVIEW: Wind In The Willows, Mayflower


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Wind In The Willows


“Vibrant and fun filled” – Beccy Conway enjoys The Wind in the Willows at The Mayflower in Southampton.

The latest in a string of classic novels-turned-musicals has arrived on the theatrical scene, and anyone who enjoyed Julian Fellows’ adaptation of Mary Poppins, which visited The Mayflower earlier this year, will love this triumph of musical adaptation.

People won’t buy tickets for The Wind in the Willows in the hope of seeing something new; it is the epitome of old-English style with its foray of tweed jackets and riverside picnics.

Wind In The Willows
In the programme Fellows notes his desire for the stage production to remain faithful to the original tale, and there’s no doubt that he succeeded in this quest; the writing could even be described as safe. However, under Rachel Kavanagh’s direction this version of Kenneth Grahame’s story is utterly charming in its nostalgia.

Fra Fee brings alive the anxious but optimistic Moley, whose depiction of friendship with Thomas Howes’ Ratty is sweet and brotherly. David Birrell’s Badger is stern and austere, but ultimately kind, and comedian Rufus Hound’s portrayal of the spoilt Toad has the audience laughing and myself pleasantly surprised at the calibre of his singing voice. The dastardly weasels and stoats are led by Neil McDermott, the cast executing Aletta Collins’ choreography with flair.

Wind In The Willows

Peter McKintosh’s set is simple yet effective, the circular wood-panelled wings give the impression of inviting the audience inside the shabby or book-filled homes of Mole and Badger. We’re taken from the idyllic riverbank with its curtains of willows, to the silhouetted trees of the dark woods, to the grand interior of the infamous Toad Hall.

Each costume alludes to the characters’ animal forms without becoming Pantomine-esque. My particular favourite is the endearing family of hedgehogs, prickles protruding from their beige Scout uniforms. The children seated behind me gasp at the family’s attempts to cross a busy road; “A hedgehog’s prickles, are no match for vehicles.”

Wind In The Willows

Along with writing by Julian Fellows (Downton Abbey), composition by George Stiles and lyrics by Anthony Drewe, Jamie Hendry has taken one of the most classic children’s stories of the early 20th century and created a vibrant, fun-filled retelling of Grahame’s tale, sure to delight people of all ages. Beccy Conway

Wind In The Willows

The Wind in the Willows continues at The Mayflower until 20 November, with performances at 1400 on Saturday 19 November and Sunday 20 November.

four stars