Review: The Wind In The Willows. Derby Theatre. Derby Market Place.

Trina Haldar superbly directs this whimsical and infectiously upbeat, socially distanced, Derby Theatre production of Kenneth Grahame’s timeless classic The Wind In The Willows. This live stage production under cover on Derby’s Market Place in the Performance Marquee is adapted for the stage by Toby Hulse with fabulously original music and a spot on sound design both by Ivan Stott. It’s 100% suitable for those with a young family and those who are young at heart. Nettie Scrivens’ costumes and set make it an immensely enjoyable visual treat. Working alongside director Trina Haldar, movement director Jeanefer Jean-Charles brings the inventive best out of a fabulous cast of nine actor-musicians.

Multi-talented performers Ruby Ablett, Dylan Bull, Charlotte Dowding, Kaine Hatukai, TJ Holmes, Charlotte Joliffe, Jim Kitson, Tilly-Mae Millbrook and Ana Turca give this thoroughly rapt Derby audience the best triple thread theatre treat this side of the mossy and reedy riverbank.

Derby Theatre’s The Wind In The Willows is an imaginative, musical and charming tale that gives this audience and probably all of the riverbank animals on the nearby river Derwent reason to celebrate life and the return of much-missed theatre after a bleak fifteen months of Covid extended forced hibernation. No wonder Mole looks so gloriously happy emerging from her seasonal slumbers. On this temporary Derby Market Place stage, nigh on two hours of theatrical traffic, including a short interval, flies by (with sound effects) most enjoyably like the mad Mr Toad in his spanking new red automobile! “Parp Parp! Parp Parp! Out of my way!”

All the familiar story-book creatures are brought to life here on the marquee stage from the adventurous and friendly Ratty (Ruby Ablett), the innocent and curious Mole (Charlotte Dowding), the opinionated, overly ambitious speed-freak Mr Toad (Jim Kitson) and the fiercely protective Mr Badger resplendent in his dressing gown (TJ Holmes). They are joined on stage by five other supporting actors as their animal friends who even morph into the scandalous home-wrecking uncouth weasels. Curse ’em! Dare you enter into the wild woods tonight under the magic of the full moon? Will we learn what The Wind In The Willows means to Kenneth Grahame’s small, often defenceless creatures, that sometimes try to behave like humans?

You’d be nuts not to see this delightful production. It’s a pocket-sized perfect picnic on the riverbank of dreams. It’s a sail down a swollen river of theatrical delights. It’s occasionally a dark and daring trip into the unknown where even a rapping rat fresh from Marseille can have its edgy say on the tasty fromage of the day. And then, boys and girls, back to the safety of English shores and familiar English countryside in all its seasons we trot. If only we can keep that naughty Mr Toad under control as the swallows swoop sensuously overhead and utter mayhem ensues down below in Toad Hall.

This delightful family-friendly production of The Wind In The Willows runs Sunday 27 June 2021 – Sunday 11 July 2021. Don’t miss it! You may never get the chance to see and hear a cute rat play the accordion again. And that would be a terrible shame.

Production images by Pamela Raith.

Leave a Reply