The Wind in the Willows review: Boat-loads of fun for all the family

The Wind in the Willows at Norwich Theatre's Interlude. 

The Wind in the Willows at Norwich Theatre's Interlude. - Credit: Sára Lapinova

Live theatre came back with a bang in Norwich as Mole, Ratty, Badger and Toad embarked on a whirlwind riverside adventure. 

Norwich Theatre's outdoor season Interlude returned on Wednesday night in a big top tent at a new location in the historic Cathedral Close, after running in Chapelfield Gardens last year.

Opening the season, which ends on August 30, was musical adventure The Wind in the Willows, based on the classic book by Kenneth Grahame and running until July 18.

It is a new adaptation of the show written by Julian Fellowes, behind Downton Abbey, with music and lyrics by heavyweights George Stiles and Anthony Drew and it was last performed at the London Palladium in 2018.

The Wind in the Willows at Norwich Theatre's Interlude. 

The Wind in the Willows at Norwich Theatre's Interlude. - Credit: Sára Lapinova

It was perfectly created for an intimate audience and outdoor stage, with a digital screen seamlessly changing as the backdrop from Toad Hall to the Wild Wood and umbrellas were heavily utilised as props, ranging from oars to swans. 

The story begins with the arrival of spring as Mole (Tom Duern) emerges from his underground home and befriends Ratty (Idriss Kargbo), a water vole, by the river.

Mole is then introduced to the eccentric Toad (Michael Burgen) who lives life in the fast lane and is always obsessed by the latest craze, starting with caravans and quickly moving onto motor cars.

The Wind in the Willows at Norwich Theatre's Interlude.

The Wind in the Willows at Norwich Theatre's Interlude. - Credit: Sára Lapinova

Mole and Ratty seek out Badger (Josh Coley) to help change Toad's ways, but it turns out to be a bit too late.

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Burgen as Toad gave a larger-than-life and wonderfully boisterous performance and completely embodied the character in Grahame's timeless tale.

Kargbo played Rat with superb animal physicality and is a talented dancer, Duern was hugely likeable as the quivering and forgiving Mole and Coley as Badger was wonderfully wise. 

The Wind in the Willows at Norwich Theatre's Interlude. 

The Wind in the Willows at Norwich Theatre's Interlude. - Credit: Sára Lapinova

They were joined by a small but perfectly formed ensemble cast who switched between roles as The Wild Wooders, made up of weasels and stoats in leather coats with German accents, and various other characters.

The show featured beautiful puppetry and the songs were catchy and uplifting, with particularly memorable numbers A Friend is Still a Friend, sung by Badger, Mole and Ratty, and A Place to Come Back To, performed beautifully by Mole.

The Wind in the Willows at Norwich Theatre's Interlude.

The Wind in the Willows at Norwich Theatre's Interlude. - Credit: Sára Lapinova

After over a year of lockdowns and restrictions, the show felt timely with its story of animals emerging from hibernation and enjoying the wonders of the great outdoors.

Book at norwichtheatre.org

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