THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS in the Royal Observatory Garden
Is there a story in the English language that’s better known or more loved than The Wind In The Willows? I doubt it – but that makes it a nightmare to stage because everyone has their own very clear idea of what it should look like.
It is to the tremendous credit of Plumstead-based Quantum Theatre that their open-air version, running twice daily in the Royal Observatory Gardens In Greenwich Park throughout half-term, has faced down that nightmare and turned it into the most pleasant dream imaginable.
Tom King as Mole, David Holland as Ratty and Benjamin Saysell as both Toad and Badger do a fine job of breathing exuberant life into Kenneth Grahame’s iconic characters in this immortal tale of friendship, hubris and pastoral Englishness. The trio also play all the side characters - Otter, the stoats and weasels of the Wild Wood, an owl, several fish, dormice, robins, a fox, rabbits, squirrels and a pair of bumble bees as well as a selection of humans including a judge, a bobby, a train driver and a washerwoman. They must have been exhausted by the end.
Adapter/director Michael Whitmore has introduced some terrific slapstick routines which went down a storm with the young audience at the performance I saw and the action is nicely enhanced by Gideon Escott’s evocative music which captures the warm glow most of us feel when we think about the story.
And a special word for the set and costumes by Jessica Selous – the animal heads she has made for this production are amazing, as good as any I have ever seen.
I thought the show was enchanting. Had it been about 15 minutes shorter, it would have been perfect.
For performance info go to https://www.quantumtheatre.co.uk/tour-dates