Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Classic tale well told

Bob Graham as Toad being badgered, so to speak, by Stephen Downing as  . . . Badger

The Wind in the Willows

The Nonentities

Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


Christmas is nearly here and what better way to get into the festive spirit than to gather up the family and head down to the Rose Theatre, Kidderminster for their production of children’s classic, The Wind In The Willows.

The Nonentities never seem to fail in delivering entertaining and quality productions and this seasonal offering doesn’t disappoint.

The tales from the riverbank follow friends Mole, Rattie and Badger as they try to keep their eccentric friend Toad out of trouble with a little help from the rest of the woodland animals.

Along the way they encounter danger from motor cars, a gang of weasals and, believe it or not, even a caravan can be problematical! When poor toad is imprisoned for “borrowing” and then crashing a motor car he is sent to prison and then it is down to him, with a little help from the woodland animals to make his escape!

The set designers have created a bright yet gentile riverbank, with Rattie’s river boat gliding from one side of the set to the other. Another high light is the vibrant caravan - for a large and heavy prop it worked extremely well. The ensemble cast sang a wonderful lullaby outside the caravan around the campfire which was simply lovely.   

The four main characters on Mole (Joan Wakeman), Rattie (Patrick Bentley), Toad (Bob Graham) and Badger (Stephen Downing) all gave solid performances and the show really came alive in the second act, following Toad’s escape from prison when the four of them are reunited to defeat the evil weasel gang and regain Toad Hall.

Lynn Ravenhill as Weasel Norman and Dan Taylor and Chris Kay as Weasels

Graham’s facial expressions as the spoilt, childlike toad were brilliant and I felt genuine sadness when the second act closed on his sorrowful face as he started his twenty year jail sentence.

A mention really must go to David Wakeman as the Black Country, long suffering, shire horse Albert who delivered some of the best lines in the production – the children (and adults) loved him. He also had the best costume – his glossy mane was very impressive!

The ensemble groups of weasals, hedgehogs and rabbits filled in parts narrative and moved the set around with ease to create Rattie, Badger and Mole’s different homes, all of which was very slick and well-polished.

Whoever directs the Christmas show always has a challenge on their hands but director Chris Clarke has produced an entertaining production with a 23 strong cast. The gentleness of the production was a breath of fresh air, when living in a world of high speed technology. The innocence of Kenneth Graham’s story shone through with Alan Bennett’s adaptation bringing in a more current comic element.

In a world where children bury their heads in Harry Potter and Twilight novels, The Wind In The Willows proves you can never beat a Classic!. To 07-12-13. 2 hours, 30 mins including a 20 minute interval

Eva Easthope 

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