By Joseph Kerr
Sunday, December 30, 2012
CHILDREN’S classic The Wind in the Willows was the Christmas treat at the Barn Theatre in Welwyn Garden City. Joseph Kerr reviews the production.
THE reason pantomime is still so popular is that it appeals to all ages, with jokes that can make the kids laugh whilst tickling their parents for quite different reasons.
The Wind in the Willows, this year’s Christmas offering at the Barn Theatre, is not a panto, but manages to work the same trick, largely because the adaptor of Kenneth Grahame’s children’s classic is none other than Alan Bennett, the nation’s favourite northerner and comic playwright.
Bennett’s version sticks closely to the original’s story of the boastful Toad and his disastrous obsession with motor cars, but also has a lot of fun with a sub-plot in which Ratty is rather jealous of a possibly questionable relationship between Mole and Badger, and the weasels are clearly South London gangsters with considerable prejudice against small black animals like Mole.
Director Keith Thompson skilfully balances the adult and childish elements in his slick production, and introduces a few jokes of his own – I particularly enjoyed a headline in the newspaper read by Badger, announcing the cancellation of the badger cull.
There are excellent performances by Graham Kilner as Toad, Michael Hammond as Ratty, and Adam Dryer as Mole. Also worth mentioning is Albert the horse, played with great gusto (and with only two legs) as a Wolverhampton Trotskyite by Bob Thomson.
There are too many other roles to mention each actor individually, though I would single out for particular praise Jack Wood’s pompous magistrate and Anya Garratt’s charming gaoler’s daughter.
Above all, this production looked superb, with amazing costumes, some of which I understand were those used in the original National Theatre production.
One doesn’t often get to praise the make up in a show, but I really must mention the extraordinary skill of Tammy Walls, who produced some very convincing animals, most particularly the totally unrecognisable John Davies as Badger.
By all means take a child with you to see this production, but don’t deny yourself the pleasure of seeing it if you can’t – it really isn’t just meant for kids.