Theatre review: The Wind in the Willows, Duchess Theatre, WC2

WIND IN THE WILLOWS by Tuckett, , Choreography and Director - Will Tuckett, Set design - The

WIND IN THE WILLOWS by Tuckett, , Choreography and Director - Will Tuckett, Set design - The Quay Brothers, Costumes - Nicky Gillibrand, Lighting - Warren Letton, The Duchess Theatre, 2013, Credit: Johan Persson/ - Credit: Archant

It’s the first time a Royal Opera House production has transferred commercially to the West End, and the wide appeal and accessibility of Will Tuckett’s acclaimed production of The Wind in the Willows make it an ideal choice.

First performed as a small scale Christmas ballet for families 11 years ago, this quirky take on this much-loved and timeless children’s tale by Kenneth Grahame has won such critical acclaim that it has been revived many times since.

And it’s easy to see why, as the charming production captures your heart from the outset with the four woodland friends – Ratty, Badger, Mole and the reckless Toad – emerging from a dusty old attic full and the river bank under the narration of the charismatic and animated Tony Robinson.

Their escapades, which largely evolve around saving Toad from self destruction and their battles with the sinister weasels, are retold through dance, song, music and puppetry with plenty of slapstick humour, drama and heart-touching moments along the way. The scene in which Toad is put in jail after a wild joy ride in his car and the cross-dressing cleaner were a particular comedic highlight, and had the audience of all ages in stitches.

There is also some magic thrown in – when snowflakes start falling from the theatre roof as the carol singers appear the children were gasping with excitement.

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The set designs from the Quay Brothers and Nicky Gillibrand are imaginative and impressive, while the score by Martin Ward draws on inspiration from the music of Edwardian composer George Butterworth.

If you’re looking for traditional and stunning ballet, this show isn’t for you – the choreography is aimed at children the production is more of a combination of music, dance and puppetry – but all this allows the story and the characters conveyed to their fullest potential.

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The show is recommended for everyone aimed five and over, but this show has the ability to charm people of all ages – and bring nostalgia to those who remember the book as a child.

Four out of five stars

The Wind in the Willows is at the Duchess Theatre, Catherine Street, WC2, until February 1.

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