The Wind in the Willows

Date 2nd March 2016
Society Ponteland Repertory Society
Venue The Memorial Hall, Ponteland
Type of Production Play
Director Jonny Woollett

Report

Author: Michael L.Avery

Ponteland Repertory Society presents interesting shows.  This time it was Alan Bennett’s version of The Wind in the Willows, based on Kenneth Grahame’s books.  I must admit to a gap in my education.  I managed to navigate childhood without reading the books but, somehow, I found myself familiar with the various characters.  Firstly, Mole, blinkingly bursting to the surface by the riverbank complete with pit helmet and a face as black as coal.  Joe Costigan was a revelation in the part – loveable, funny, a Mole for All Seasons.  His guide to the surface was Jonny Woollett (who also directed the show), a very knowledgeable and earthly Rat.  Into this gentle, pastoral idyll, Leo Emmerson interjected himself as Toad of Toad Hall himself, well-off, idle, selfish, with more money than sense.  He makes himself centre of attraction and manages to get himself imprisoned for 20 years, a little excessive for simply insulting the judge!  Meanwhile, Ratty must guide Mole around various pitfalls.

The ownership of Albert, a world weary horse played by Jason Long, passes from Toad to the Bargewoman (Isobel Wind) and back again, much to Albert’s dismay.  Then there was Brian Barry as Badger, a sort of elder statesman to whom everyone, except Toad, demurs. Talking of Toad, he manages to escape prison with the aid of a washerwoman’s outfit.  It suits him down to the ground.

The play has 31 named parts, almost all individually cast.  So it’s a big cast but there’s more - Weasels, Stoats, Ferrets, a group of River Bankers, a quintet of gypsies, and a group of Wild Wooders played by a lot of young people admirably incorporated into the action by director Johnny and his assistant, Lucy Walton.

In closing, I revert to Leo Emmerson. His Toad filled the stage whenever he appeared.  In his green make-up he looked like Jim Carrey in The Mask, all flashing teeth and manic expression but seemed to be channelling Rik Mayall in much (not all) of his performance.  He made Frog literally (well, not literally) jump off the stage.  A very engaging, entertaining, funny performance enhanced by all the other performers who occupied the stage with him.