It isn’t easy to pare The Wind in the Willows down to six actor size. Toby Hulse’s imaginative reworking with Martin Ward’s evocative music and, above all, Liz Cooke’s ingenious, three-tier riverside set complete with lots of traps, ensure that it all works well. The giant soup spoons as oars are delightful and the way the caravan emerges is such a good idea you wish you’d thought of it yourself.
Ailsa Joy is a charismatic actor who brings exactly the right wide-eyed, naivety to Mole and then develops her into a brave stalwart friend. Phil Yarrow gives us a loveable, peaceable Ratty and Nick Ash plays Badger as an imposing basso profundo with a hint of The Mikado being imperious. Robert Saunders has oodles of stage presence as Toad and is funny enough to cover his weak singing.
The enjoyable charm-laden show includes some fine harmony singing especially between Joy and Yarrow with high quality support from Kanga Tanikye-Buah and Arran Glass in various minor roles. The staging of Toad’s crazy drive with projection behind, silent film music and various characters floating past is a witty climax to the first half and, later, the busy choreography of the big fight scene at Toad Hall makes good use of a small cast and space.