The Wind in the Willows comes to TwyfordBy Caroline Cook
December 13, 2012
Animals will be scampering around Twyford this winter when Toad, Ratty and Mole arrive in the village.
Actors from Twyford and Ruscombe Theatre Group will be donning whiskers, ears and tails for a festive production of The Wind in the Willows.
“We are already selling well and I think it’s because it’s The Wind in the Willows,” says director Richard Coleman.
“As a story it’s very traditional and the youngsters love it. Lots of them go to Henley for the exhibition,” he adds, referring to the Wind and the Willows walk-through exhibition at the River and Rowing Museum in Henley.
Wind in the Willows author Kenneth Grahame grew up in Scotland but went to live with his grandmother in Cookham Dean, near Henley, after his mother died.
It is thought the Kenneth drew inspiration for Wind in the Willows from the area with Mapledurham House believed to be the basis for Toad Hall.
“We’re keeping it traditional and just adding a few little bits in,” says Richard. “I have added some panto themes to the show, although of course they will not be revealed unless you’re in the audience,” he says, with a smile. “There will of course be the ‘he’s behind you’ and ‘oh no it isn’t, oh yes it is,’ too and we've added some music.
“There are some songs in the script but I have been raiding my own rock and folk catalogue in my head too.”
For Richard the show will be a nostalgic production as he starred in a version of the tale more than 20 years ago.
“I played the chief weasel,” he says. “We’ve been trying to work out how many years ago it was because my daughter had the first line in it and she was five or six at the time.
“Now she’s 34 and is helping me choreograph this year’s show.”
With just a few weeks to go until the curtain goes up the cast are busy learning lines and working out the best way to paint on their whiskers.
“We’re keeping it simplistic,” says Richard. “They are all going to have ears and noses and whiskers but I said it would be like Laura Ashley meets Beatrix Potter, floral dresses and things. We didn’t want lots of people running round in onesies, that would have been awful,” he jokes.
Loddon Hall will become Toad Hall for the night as Mole and Ratty set off on a fine spring day to visit the wealthy but conceited Mr Toad.
When Mr Toad catches sight of a motor car he becomes obsessed with the new craze and the encounter sparks a downward spiral which seems him thrown in jail. With Mr Toad out the picture the weasels move in on Toad Hall but can Mole, Ratty and their pal Badger save the day?
Richard says audiences will have to wait and see but he promises plenty of fun and frivolity to banish the post-Christmas blues.
“It’s good because post-Christmas everyone might be feeling down and they can all come to the panto and cheer up,” he says.
“It brings Christmas into January quite well.
“A lot of people do pantos before Christmas but it’s always a mad rush because you are trying to get yourself ready too. But by the time New Year comes that’s all behind you and everyone can relax and enjoy the show.”
Wind and the Willows is at London Hall in Loddon Hall Road from Thursday, January 10, to Saturday, January 12. Tickets range from £6.50 to £9. To book call 0118 328 2825