The Wind in the Willows @ London Palladium
Cast Includes Rufus Hound, Gary Wilmot, Simon Lipkin and Denise Welch
Running Time: 2 hours 30 mins, inc. Interval
The Wind in the Willows is a new adaption of the classic Kenneth Grahame novel by Downton’s Julian Fellowes, with music by Stiles and Drewe which started life in Plymouth before moving to the West End.
The book’s original narrative is mainly unchanged – chronicling the adventures of Toad, Ratty, Mole and Badger as the original books does. Toad comes off best in this adaptation, being brought to life with brio by the wonderful Rufus Hound. Toad feels like the character who has had most time spent on him – a gaudy and over-the-top character but yet he feels the most well rounded, with some of the lesser characters feeling less realistic. The only other issue with the narrative is the change of ending, with Toad unrepentant – this feels a negative change, because it feels like the book’s moral message has been cut in exchange for a set piece.
One of the major issues with the piece is the score – there feels like there is a surplus of songs, many of which seem to hold the plot up or serve very little function. “One Swallow Does Not a Summer Make” is obviously there to show the passage of time, however it feels forgettable – there are many songs like this which feel there to fill up time. Especially by the end of the show there are so many similar cues that only a few songs stand out, such as “The Open Road”.
The rest of the cast play to their strengths – both Simon Lipkin and Craig Mather give strong performances and are suitably pleasant as Ratty and Mole respectively, if possibly there being a slightly romantic aspect being suggested by their partnership which is neither dismissed or built upon, which is possibly a shame. Gary Wilmot is also good portraying a stern Badger, however this does feel slightly undermined by the changed ending, with his recriminations going unheeded.
The staging of the piece is good, though at time feels less natural than the setting implies, but there are some good set pieces and good choreography. In all though, this feels a much less satisfying adaptation than the trio’s previous work on Half a Sixpence.
Summary: An enjoyable enough production, though lacking a clear artistic vision. The songs are pleasant but not memorable – enjoyable for the family and true completists only. ***