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Wind in the Willows


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This was an absolutely charming production choreographed by William Tuckett of the Royal Ballet, and is on at the Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House until Sun 22nd Dec.

This is the link to the ROH website, about it:


It's star studded cast included Sir Antony Dowell (!) as Narrator, Adam Cooper as Badger, Will Kemp as Ratty, Matthew Hart as Toad and Philippa Gordon as Mole. They were also joined by Luke Heydon and Tom Sapsford, as well as three singers-Victoria Joyce, Darron Moore and Clare McCaldin.

This was a adaptation of the well known story by Kenneth Grahame, and was simply wonderful. The action as lead by Antony Dowell, who was Narrator and Author of the story. It was set in his attic from days gone by and he recounted the story of the furry friends of the riverbank. The script was written by Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate, and retold the story magically.

The set was designed by the Quay Brothers and had all sorts of clever devices to assist the story-the river came out of the cupboard, and Mole's house was a rolled up rug!

The costumes were also fabulous, thankfully without lots of odd furry face masks! Though the knitted duck bonnets were something to behold!

William Tuckett's choreography was strong throughout and matched beautifully the music arranged and partially composed by Martin Ward (after George Butterworth.) It was wonderful watching such a good group of dancers, and even more so, the way they danced each character. Toad, with his amazing wiggling tongue, and Badger with his pipe, all added to the magical atmosphere of the production.

Anyway, has anyone else seen it and what did you think? I hope this production stays around for years to come!

Oh yes, and when the carol singers came on, it snowed in the auditorium!!

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I thought Wind in the Willows was the most enchanting, warm and witty production. The pure quality of the dancers and singers really made this, the extraordinary way they all manage to contort their faces into their characters. I loved the flirting fondness between Will Kemp’s dashingly natty Ratty and Pippa Gordon’s shy Mole. I adored the singing ducks and hopping rabbits, Iohna Loots especially. She was a lovely Clara in Nutcracker last night but her wide-eyed rabbit terrified by Toad and his menace of a motor car was hilarious. And her letter-stuffed “hare mail” satchel got a giggle out of me. The stoat puppets (Lion King-style) I wanted to pet but the weasels were as nasty as they're supposed to be. And Ratty's gun-twirling after coming to Mole's rescue was too cute. Adam Cooper was a gruff, pipe-smoking badger but most memorable was Matthew Hart’s nutty Toad, his tongue permanently flapping out of his mouth. He was completely insane! During the interval there was a huge commotion and Toad came racing out of a door into the audience-filled lobby, in his stolen motor car chased by police with truncheons! The opera-sung trial and verdict by the judge was hysterical – the droop on Toad’s face as his friends Badger, Mole and co. lined up to console him in the dock, the horror on his face as he counted on his fingers 1, 2, 5, 6…19, no let’s round it up to 20 years in jail! And the misery on his face was palpable as he crouched in his tiny cramped cell. It looks like such a tough, physical role though – as he leapt and spun from on place to another I could see huge droplets of sweat flying off him! And Luke Heydon's washing-up woman who breaks Toad out of jail - her flirtatious dance with Toad was a very "oh my god he looks so awful I can barely look" moment! It’s so obvious how clearly the dancers and singers love their characters, how they put their all into them. Anthony Dowell had a grandfatherly air to him and his narration was warm and vivid, as well as his reaction and interaction with the characters. It’s probably true that the text is beyond the littlest children but it’s such wonderful writing I can’t imagine WITW without it and it’s something for us nostalgic adults. The carols and snow were such a magical moment I actually became a little emotional! I loved the way the bits of opera singing were integrated into the story – it’s lovely to see collaboration between dance and opera for once. The use of the sets was imaginative – a giant chair over-turned became Toad’s prison cell, a closet was used for multiple doors and a horse-driven carriage. The musical score, while no masterpiece was an English dream. There’s been a tiny bit of criticism at the choreography but I thought it was quite imaginative and really it’s the characters that make the performance. I saw the choreographer William Tuckett upstairs during the interval but I was too shy to approach him so I’ll say it here instead, “Congratulations on a beautiful and loving production. I can’t remember being so happy and laughing so much throughout the whole two hours tonight or leaving as energised as I did.” I loved it. I loved how stuffed it was with details, little things that were going on around the main action so sometimes you didn’t know where to look for fear of missing something. I heartily recommend WITW but the performances are completely sold out. I’m seriously thinking about queuing for returns though I think I have zero chance. I hope as well that it’s staged regularly at the ROH, and it so deserves to tour. I doubt it would be as suitable for the main stage as the Linbury - much of the joy comes from the expressive faces of the characters. But I do think that because it is so intimate it would be perfect for filming and I would dearly love to see this huggable cast of characters and production preserved for everyone to see. It's charming, it's fresh and funny and a little wistful. The stop-motion animated film of this story is a treasured memory from my youth but I don’t know how I can ever go back to it after this! A cracking evening!

And finally, I want one of those cool knitted duck / rabbit-eared hat things!

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I loved it too! I do so want to see it again. Anthony Dowell was the perfect narrator, he engaged the audience from the start, as he walked around the attic with his book. The ballet was delightful, really old fashioned and charming. Sylvia, I know what you mean about it making you happy. It made me feel like a child, especially when it snowed, it was such a beautiful moment! The production was so completely realised, there were so many details - the set, costumes and the way the auditorium was used, with the orchestra in the "boxes" on both sides, the carol singers walking down the stairs, and of course the fabulous car chase in the interval! I won't ever forget the performance. William Tuckett is a genius.:)

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