REVIEW: THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS Pentameters Theatre Hampstead

PUBLISHED: 12:17 11 December 2008 | UPDATED: 15:41 07 September 2010

Four star rating It is 100 years since Kenneth Grahame wrote his children s masterpiece. Adapted by A. A. Milne for the theatre under the name of Toad Of Toad Hall, it has been a stable Christmas fav

THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS

Pentameters Theatre

Hampstead

Four star rating

It is 100 years since Kenneth Grahame wrote his children's masterpiece. Adapted by A. A. Milne for the theatre under the name of Toad Of Toad Hall, it has been a stable Christmas favourite ever since until recent years when it has been largely ignored by the larger West End companies.

Harry Meacher has brought it up to date, added some well known tunes and with a cast of intrinsically funny actors has made it an enjoyable show for adults as well as children.

It may not seem to be politically correct, but that is unimportant. The story belongs to an earlier age when courtesy, kindness and hospitality was the prerogative of the upper classes and the lower classes, the vulgar stoats and weasels are finally put back into their place in the wild wood.

There is more than a hint of Wodehouse in the speech patterns and one is reminded of Jerome K Jerome when Ratty delivers his famous speech about messing about in boats.

One of the brightest of ideas is to use the weasels as scene shifters. These thieving rascals pinch anything, including the boat and the river. This means there is no hiatus during the scene changes. The weasels led by Jackie Skarvellis who also gives us a wonderful inebriated judge in act two, are a comic bunch providing a well orchestrated counterpoint of dialogue as they constantly repeat each others words.

Meacher's casting is perfect. The River folk have great sweetness. Mole is given an endearing and very clear characterisation by J T Eaton and the neat and somewhat pernickety water rat is exemplified by Brian Hands. Roger Sansom is a commanding avuncular badger and Jonson is bursting with energy as the over ebullient and vainglorious Mr Toad.

Each takes a turn at narrating which keeps the story going and leaves out any scenes without obvious jokes or drama. John Dalton has created a charming woodland setting and the cut outs are cute and effective. A family treat.

Until January 10.

Aline Waites


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