Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Fun and frolics down by the riverbank.

At the Sherman

The Sherman Theatre Company- The Wind in the Willows , Sherman Theatre , December 14, 2017
At the Sherman by The Sherman Theatre Company- The Wind in the Willows The magic is there as we walk in. Kevin Treacy’s excellent set fills the Sherman stage. We are in the huge dining room of the Victorian Toad Hall. Whilst it retains its original elegance, we can see it is now pretty run down. In fact it’s up for auction. We also know that we are in for some fun, as just before the play begins the very versatile Hannah McPake tries to wrestle with the banner advertising the auction. Hannah also plays the ‘baddie, the Chief Weasel, a Barge Woman and my favourite, a very stroppy horse, all very effectively.

For now though she announces that the auction will be delayed so that we can all share in the past stories of the house and its famous owner the redoubtable Mr Toad. Keiron Self brings him vividly to life, an endearing character with a wicked twinkle in his eye.

But first we meet Rat. In contrast to Mr. Toad he is very sensible and very friendly and perfectly and elegantly played by Dominic Rye. Even more friendly and lively is Jessica Murrain’s Mole. She and Rat get busy on the river, rowing on an old iron bedstead. It serves them well as a boat and it plays a few other parts too.

There’s a gentleness about Lee Lyford’s direction and in Mike Kenny’s retelling of Kenneth Grahame’s original and engaging story that enables the cast to begin the magic quietly holding the close attention of the packed young audience almost spell bound. As they row, Rat explains some of the river’s secrets. Eventually they reach Toad Hall.

Toad has always had a passion for the open road. He persuades them to join him on a caravan outing. Off they go, once Rat and Mole have persuaded the uncooperative horse to join them. Toad sleeps the whole of the next day to avoid doing any work. Their trip is ruined by a motorcar crashing in to them. Now Toad must definitely have his own motorcar – and that’s where trouble begins.

Toad’s motorcar driving creates mayhem and he is put into jail. Meanwhile Mole goes off to explore the wild wood. In the wood he finds his own mayhem as Hannah McPake’ s Chief Weasel and her nasty mates give him a nasty, big scare. This is all enhanced by the clever music, under the very able direction of Gareth Wyn Griffiths, that permeates and underpins much of the action. He manages to get back to Rat and they find themselves on Badger’s doorstep. Badger is a wise old thing, brought brightly to life by Zara Ramm. They rest with her until the snowy weather has passed.

As the second half continues the captivated young audience are brought into livelier mood as more physical fun continues on stage. Toad is helped to get out of jail by the Gaoler’s daughter another cheerful performance from Rebecca Killick. She dresses him in the Washer Woman’s clothes. From this point on Keiron Self is at his comedy best. They all get up to many more antics, sing more excellent songs. To say more would be to give too much away. This is a totally captivating and entrancing production. They are a delightful ensemble determined to ensure that everyone has a good time and they succeed totally.

Reviewed by: Michael Kelligan

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