by Kenneth Grahame adapted by Richard Williams.

Haymarket Theatre Wote Street RG21 7NW To 2 January.
Runs 1hr 50min One interval.

TICKETS: 01256 844244.
Review: Mark Courtice 11 December.

Charming family favourite delivers the goods.
As a family show, Grahame’s perennial favourite has enormous charm; the adventures are exciting but not too frightening for the young, the characters engaging and varied, the setting idyllic.

All this is delivered in Anvil Arts’ Christmas offering at the Haymarket this year. Richard Williams’ adaptation sticks closely to the original, telling the story clearly and with economy. From the moment that Martina Horrigan’s Mole joins Neil Roberts’ languid Ratty on the river, and gets involved in the adventurous life of Toad the pace keeps rolling along.

With the odd song, and a chorus of local children, Williams sensibly uses the text to provide opportunities for young imaginations to provide the detail. Not that there aren’t the pleasures of a proper little car and a tiny caravan that feed Toad’s latest enthusiasm. Otherwise, David Collis provides a set of sliding screens of tree trunks, used with panache by Williams to provide a shifting space for ambushes, picnics, and chases.

Matthew Woodyatt as Toad is splendid, he has raffish charm, his vainglory is part of a realised character, and we care about what happens to him. Horrigan is also good as Mole. This is one of those characters that can get lost beside the stronger types like Ratty and Badger, but she is genuinely engaging as she faces small and large crises with a timid bravery that even the smallest of us can understand.

Local youngsters are energetic as the Stoats and Weasels, being led with enthusiasm and tactful skill by Joe Carey and Jo Castleton. With sterling support from Andy Rashleigh as a gruff Badger, the whole company work very hard to people a Riverbank and Wild Wood where it is a real pleasure to spend a winter evening.

Toad: Matthew Woodyatt.
Ratty: Neil Roberts.
Badger: Andrew Rashleigh.
Mole: Martina Horrigan.
Jailer’s Daughter/Bargewoman/Clerk/
Mother Duck/Field Mouse: Jo Castleton.
Magistrate/Washerwoman/Engine Driver: Joseph Carey.
Chief Wildwooder/Horse/Jailer: Ian Harris.

Director: Richard Williams.
Designer: David Collis.
Lighting: Stephen Holroyd.

2010-12-17 09:09:57

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