This year’s Christmas at the Sherman Theatre sees the classic Wind in the Willows brought to the main stage. A particular favourite, my first memory of going to the theatre was seeing this at St David’s Hall. And whilst we won’t think of the years gone by, I’m sure I was the same age as my children now.
In bringing Kenneth Grahame’s tale to the stage, Mike Kenny encaptures the peace and life of the river. It is amazing the level of detail which brings a story to life, and in this two-hour production the audience are hooked in through the beauty of words which not only breathe life into the characters of Toad, Mole, Badger and Rat but also the lifestyle and time of the piece.
As a fellow former boat-dweller, there was a true sense of home in the atmosphere created. Lee Lyford directs a piece which unites a strong ensemble with lighting and sound design which takes you effortlessly from the splendor of Toad Hall, to the riverbank and car chases. It is difficult to translate how this is possible given Simon Kenny’s design is based on Toad Hall filling the space but through a rotating stage and Kevin Treacy’s lighting design it feels as though anything is possible as we are introduced to Toad’s story.
As Toad, Kieron Self really is splendid. Portraying Toad’s self-centred nature with great humour, he is loveable in-spite of his flaws.
But whilst the story is Toad’s, in this performance each character is prominent. Each actor brings their own strength to the ensemble.
Having seen Hannah McPake previously in Seanmhair I was completely caught off guard by her humour and voice. Bringing so much personality to a range of roles. Primarily of Chief Weasel, but also bringing all the laughs as a snorting horse and the cutest hedgehog. Hannah’s versatility truly demonstrated, and a favourite of the children. Favoured by me, Zara Ramm’s Badger brought the characters together which a sternness and love which was replicated physically as well as in voice.
Throughout the physical characterisation was maintained for each of the animals brought to the stage. The subtleties complemented by the detail of the costumes design, not overtly animalistic. This really is a beautiful production which gently lures you in.
Whilst gentle, as this is lead up to Toad’s story there is so much fun. With bunnies on pogo sticks, ducks in mackintoshes and wellies and remote control cars there really is no predicting where the story will take the audience.
Wind in the Willows successfully brings so much theatre to the stage but in a way which is not intrusive or brash. It is beautiful, it is nostalgic, it is fun. And I can’t imagine how it is possible not to enjoy it, to not feel the warmth of friendship and family. If Christmas is for families, I would thoroughly recommend taking your family to enjoy Christmas at the Sherman.
The Wind in the Willows is at the Sherman Theatre until 30th December 2017 with tickets available on the website.
And for a proper family treat, you can even enjoy Afternoon Tea at Toad Hall on the 16th, 23rd or 30th December.
Disclosure: We were invited to the performance for the purpose of this review. All opinions and words contained are our own.