West End Theatre Guide
Kenneth Grahame’s much-loved children’s book, The Wind in the Willows, follows the story of the speed-obsessed and frivolous Mr Toad, the loyal Rat and Mole, and the wise and revered Badger. The tale revolves around themes of love, enduring loyalty and everlasting friendship which are embodied in the musical number ‘A Friend Is Still A Friend’.
The plot contains reckless driving, car theft, prison break, and identity impersonation, making it an unlikely children’s story. Mr Toad is carefree and reckless and he is never really punished for his mischief and wrongdoing and nor does he learn from his errors, but this really embraces the playfulness of the story. Rat is reluctant to help with Mr Toad, being content to row on his river all day long, but is ultimately compelled to support his childhood friend, with a little persuasion from Mole, enforcing the championing of friendship over all else. Badger acts as a wise guiding hand over all of them and joins in celebrations after the re-taking of Toad Hall from the rascally weasels and stoats.
The cast of animals are powerfully brought to life by elaborate and colourful costumes, an imaginative set and props for all the animals’ homes and vehicles and vessels, and mostly by the actors’ fantastic interpretations of animal mannerisms.
The novel has been adapted to the stage by Julian Fellowes with a musical score by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. The musical debuted in Plymouth, Southampton and Salford before it transferred to the West End, aided by crowdfunding, showing the immense popularity and warmth for this tale.
Simon Lipkin (Whisper House, Honeymoon In Vegas, Guys and Dolls) and Craig Mather (Les Miserables, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Spring Awakening) gave truly outstanding performances as Rat and Mole. The two perform a lovely duet, ‘Messing About On A Boat’, which is the standout number of the show. Rufus Hound (What the Butler Saw, Trollied (TV), Doctor Who (TV)), Neil McDermott (Shrek, Follies, Eastenders (TV)) and Denise Welch (Yesterday’s Children, Coronation Street (TV), Waterloo Road (TV)) starred as Mr Toad, Chief Weasel and Mrs Otter.
This production is a heart-warming and enchanting tale of friendship – an uplifting, timeless masterpiece which is suitable and enjoyable for all ages. Despite being published over a century ago, in 1908, The Wind in the Willows continues to charm and captivate audiences to this day.
The Wind in the Willows is showing at the London Palladium and is currently booking until 9th September 2017 (to book tickets, click here). For more information on your visit to the London Palladium, read our guide.