Timeless and heart-warming fun

By James Iles Wednesday 05 December 2012 Updated: 10/12 09:49

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Matthew Douglas as Toad in The Wind in the Willows. Picture by Robert Day.

Wind in the Willows

Crescent Theatre, Birmingham

I’M not a big fan of the pantomime that’s served up like an over-generous helping of Christmas pudding at this time of year so I always seek out the alternative festive family show.

Kenneth Grahame’s classic Wind in the Willows at Crescent Theatre in Birmingham, adapted by Alan Bennett, therefore appealed to take my young sons to see and it did not disappoint.

The intimacy of the Crescent Theatre ensures a good view of the stage from wherever you sit (and whatever your height) and the audience were certainly drawn into this good old-fashioned and enthralling tale.

Indeed, unlike the panto rigmarole of being shouted at to join in, no invitation was needed for the captivated crowd to gasp and cheer with the stage antics, even leading some to smart ad libbing from the superb Matthew Douglas as the larger-than-life Toad who clicked so well with all in the room.

True to Grahame’s Edwardian original work based on letters to his son, Bennett’s adaptation is subtly adjusted for the modern audience and was even comically localised by the Brummie depressive stand-up of Albert the Horse – played by the brilliant Chris Nayak.

The costumes were fantastic. Ratty, played by Oliver J Hembrough, was suave and debonaire in his naval blazer and whites, Moley (Nicholas Prasad) was traditional in his 1920's suit and Toad was hopping out of his plus fours with green socks.

The musical ensemble who opened the show switched to acting and actors swapped to play instruments and sing in this resourceful production that did not need to rely on gimmicks and stunts to engage you thanks to a multi-talented cast.

I left thinking how my circle of friends would fit into the foursome of the naïve but loyal Moley, pragmatic but poetic Ratty, withdrawn but wise Badger and boisterous and blithe Toad which just shows how much they connected.

This was a great alternative festive family show suitable for all ages and anyone yearning for a heart-warming tale with no vulgarity but plenty of adventure, a bit of slapstick and song and above all some enjoyable and honest fun.

The show runs until January 19. For tickets visit

James Iles

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