Hilarious and energetic, this is a superb adaptation of the quintessentially English tale. Our hero, Mole, travels for the first time to the surface where he meets the enigmatic Ratty and eccentric Mr Toad. Whisked along by Toad’s flights of fancy, Mole and Ratty end up captured by the evil weasels, hell-bent on the total exploitation of the surrounding countryside. Saved by gruff Badger, they set out to save The Willows.
The pacing of the show is generally kept at a high level: across the board performances were strong and committed, helping to keep energy high and thrusting the story along at an appropriate rate. There were, however, a few too many line and cue slips to be forgivable. These, if sharpened up, would make a great show even better. Aiding the telling of the tale is Pan in the role of narrator – adorable and endearing; she does a good job of filling in the blanks. Pan, though, is a strange god to invoke for this story: inextricably linked with fierce male sexuality, it is somewhat inappropriate. Sometimes it was difficult to hear over the live music, so some work on volume and diction is also required.
This is utterly eclipsed, however, by the phenomenal quality of the humour in the show. It is clear that everyone on stage loves every second of their time in the show and they bounce off one another very well. Whether they be scripted or ad libs, none of the jokes fall flat and laughing so much did little to help my cough. There are too many stand-out moments to pick a favourite and I wouldn’t want to spoil any punchlines.
The real star of the show is Mole – always a pleasure to watch, his character is polished to gleaming levels. Toad, too, is sharp and considered in his delivery and physicality. The dialogue, on the other hand, sometimes felt laboured and the cast struggle to keep it entertaining. Occasionally lacklustre, too, is the physicality of the set pieces: there is a fair amount of intuitive staging which could have benefitted from greater commitment to feel more convincing.
My greatest despair, however, is that the show only runs from the 14th - 19th. Book now, as it would be a terrible shame to miss.