by Kenneth Grahame adapted by Mike Kenny.

Theatre Royal St Leonards Place YO1 7HD To 30 August 2014.
Tue-Sat 7pm Mat Thu-Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 21, 23 Aug 2.30pm & 7pm.
BSL Signed 30 Aug 2.30pm.
Captioned 23 Aug 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.

TICKETS: 01904 623568.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 9 August.

Lively, energetic tale of famous river characters.
Trust Mike Kenny to find an individual, and highly apt, approach to a well-known story. It’s one of the things that has made him, long-term and particularly in the north of England, such a successful writer for young people.

Many an adaptor might start in the middle of events. Kenny dives in virtually at the end, as we enter to find the Theatre Royal stage a mix of grandeur and building-site, chaotically roamed by the Wild Wood invaders auctioning-off Toad’s proud possessions.

Nor does Kenny merely return to the beginning and show how this situation came about. For much of the first act this is far from being a ‘Toad of Toad Hall’ story, as Ratty, Mole and Jacky Naylor’s wise, if at times judgemental, Badger play a leading role. It’s only after the interval that Martin Barrass’s jokily irresponsible, ever-smiling Toad really moves into focus.

All this in an ever-active production by Artistic Director Damian Cruden, based on one he mounted here in 2010 along with Katie Posner. Apart from action across the stage, there are forays into an auditorium built into a single sweep of stalls and circle (delightful for audiences at first, if eventually somewhat overplayed) and use of two stories on the set – Toad’s escape from his friends’ guard starts on a balcony.

Cruden keeps his young audience in mind, in the fast-paced action, the music and humour, while Barrass has a high old time with Toad’s slow realisation and quick enthusiasms. And Toad’s circle have space to become individuals, with Robin Simpson’s Mole ever-willing and Jonathan Race presenting a thoughtful Ratty. They’re contrasted by Michael Lambourne’s Chief Weasel, far too infectious to be anything like a villain.

If anything, the speed of invention can obscure the more thoughtful moments of Kenneth Grahame’s story and the sense of the seasons slowly revolving; this is a version that needs to keep young 21st-century audience attentions. Yet there is room, especially at the end – before the necessarily upbeat musical curtain-call – for a sense of the elegiac, in the performances, direction and in Christopher Madin’s ever-supportive score.

Chief Weasel: Michael Lambourne.
Mole: Robin Simpson.
Mrs Badger: Jacky Naylor.
Ratty: Jonathan Race.
Mr Toad: Martin Barrass.
Mr Rabbit: Josh Sneesby.
Mrs Otter: Deborah Hewitt.
Mr Fox: Richard Mark.
Hedgehogs: Elly Beacon, Lily Madill Parker, Charlie Pascall,
Abi Robinson, Amber Taylor, Emma Vincent.
Otters: Madeline Clifton, Imogen Drury, Elise Tsang.
Rabbits: Hannah Brown, Anais Crane, Jasmin Marshall, Izzi Nutbrown, Fiona Popplewell, Safa Sadozai.
Weasels: Ewan Croft, Maddie Drury, Matthew Heppell, Harry Johnson, Ailish Keogh, Max Mulrenan, Matthew Naish, Robert Sinkinson, Clara Williams Brinquez.

Director: Damian Cruden.
Designers: Catherine Chapman, Lydia Denno.
Lighting: Richard G Jones.
Composer/Musical Director: Christopher Madin.
Young People’s director: Nicolette Hobson.
Fight director: Liam Evans-Ford.
Assistant musical director: Richard Mark.
Assistant Young People’s director: Nicola Bradley.

2014-08-11 09:00:17

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