The Wind in the Willows at the Vaudeville
Kenneth Grahame’s beloved The Wind in the Willows is a classic literary staple for young children. Director and Royal Ballet guest principal character artist Will Tuckett has been tasked with the job of bringing the beloved tale to the stage at Charing Cross’ Vaudeville Theatre.
Although for many adults seeing the play the stage debut of Alan Titchmarsh is the main draw, his performance doesn’t really stand out. He occupies the role of the calm grandpa, gently setting the scene of the play, but it is fairly obvious whenever he has an extended line of dialogue that he’s not a born thespian. Titchmarsh also struggles when attempting to sing certain lines; he’s clearly not comfortable singing on the stage. His performance is not all bad: the combination of his elderly intonation and robotic movements creates a perfect juxtaposition to the physical elasticity of the rest of the cast.
The highlight of the production is the extended duel between Badger and the head of the weasels. The two strongest actors come head to head, and Ewan Wardrop’s portrayal of the gang leader, which is equal parts cocksure and clumsy, finds its perfect counterbalance in Ira Mandela Siobhan’s lumbering Badger. Badger is gloriously belligerent and soft at the same time; he gets the balance between his hulking physical frame and the lackadaisical nature of the production exactly right.
There are parts in The Wind in the Willows that are sure to delight children. Towards the end of the first act, the characters come together to sing a carol. As they do, small pieces of foam fall from the rafters, gently making their way down to the audience. It’s a moment that is in no way cheesy – rather, the audience is captivated.
Martin Ward, who composed much of the music, deserves a large amount of credit. The score never overpowers the production, and during the solo dances, which seem to go on slightly too long, Ward’s score provides ample entertainment. It is towards the end, when the storming of Toad Hall is taking place, that his frantic, kinetic score is at its best.
Tuckett’s production goes out on a huge high note shortly after, strings soaring and characters dancing. This is the kind of production that kids will undoubtedly love.
Photo: Johan Persson
The Wind in the Willows is on at Vaudeville Theatre until 17th January 2015, for further information or to book visit here.