Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The 7 Shows of Xmas 2: THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS

Owen, being a fan of Kenneth Grahame's book of life along the riverbank, booked tickets to see this ballet version by the Royal Opera House.  It had a big success last year so has been brought back for a short season at the Vaudeville.

Now I must declare at this point that I have never been partial to Grahame's story.  With it's superior tone and referencing the worst elements of upper-class snobbish attitudes I am afraid I have always remained resistant to it - even the Disney version.

But Owen wanted to see it so I went along.  Sadly after a fairly hectic day at work - and with the heaviness of a head cold hanging about - about 5 minutes after it started I was nodding and drifting away. It's placidly charming tempo and Listen With Mother air knocked me out.

Another reason for the slightly soporific feeling was down to the fact that The Narrator was played by none other than Alan Titchmarsh - yes THE Alan Titchmarsh! Onstage! Not on tape like I was expecting.  I think the shock of seeing the Gran's favourite pin-up in all his woolliness set me off to snoozeland.

However after an interval that saw the bar being invaded first by the irate owner of a stolen car then Mr Toad in said stolen vehicle and finally by the bobbies who arrested him - and after finishing off a gin and tonic *and* an ice-cream - I felt a bit more connected to the piece.  

There was real snow in the auditorium during the winter section although Owen was upset we didn't get any as we were under the balcony overhang like at WHITE CHRISTMAS and by the end of the show - it's only 100 minutes - I must admit I had quite a pleasant time.

It's killingly twee of course but it has a charming quality which works quite a spell of good-feeling.  It was hard to think that outside it was all manic Christmas shopping and boozy office parties.  Will Tuckett's choreography is inventive with a nice manic twist for Toad.  And even Alan Titchmarsh's casting *worked* at the end.

Cris Penfold whirled and bounced around the stage as Toad with unstoppable energy and he was well-supported by Martin Harvey (Ratty), Ira Mandela Siobhan (the most bizarre name currently onstage played Badger) and Sonya Cullingford (Mole).  A busy cast double and triple up as well as acting as puppeteers.

I still dislike the story but I have to admit the show - to quote Sam Goldwyn - had charmth and warmth.

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