What do you want a children's show to be? Enchanting? Exciting? Engaging? Have a great story? Maybe with a little bit of (non-threatening) audience participation? Oh, and what about a few sing-along songs and a cracking good cast thrown in for good measure? That's what Cambridge Touring Theatre deliver in their ebullient take on Kenneth Grahame's timeless classic Wind in the Willows.
With boating blazers, flannels, tweed and brogues aplenty, minimal props and imaginative staging the company perfectly capture Grahame's Edwardian idyll. The narrative retains all the essential elements of the original without losing any of its eccentric charm and there are even a few modern references to keep the slightly older children engaged. This is a company that understand their audience: the simplified storyline is easy for even the tiniest of audience members to follow but there's enough here to keep the adults sufficiently amused.
The characterisations too are spot on: Dan Jennings' ebullient Toad and James Clifford's Artful Dodger-like Weasel are particularly captivating and the children in the audience feed off the pair's energy, needing little prodding to join in. In any moments where the tiny tots engagement wanes the actors skilfully and seamlessly get them onside with a gesture or a word. The songs are smoothly interwoven into the show and sit well with the spirit of the original story having a classic, ageless feel with simple sing-along lyrics.
Great storytelling is the essence of great theatre and this well-crafted show does full justice to its original source material. It is beguiling, beautifully judged and has a joyous charm that's completely infectious. If that isn't enough to entice you to go, then the company also offer a free 45 minute drama workshop before every performance to explore the characters and themes from the story. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face.