The wind in the willows -
new vic theatre,
Starring a large selection of actor-musicians. Playing until 26th January 2019
The New Vic Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme has built up an enviable reputation both locally and nationally for the quality and scale of its productions, particularly at Christmas. The fact it is a theatre 'in the round' means it is able to offer something that other theatres can't and they know how to use this to their advantage.
This years Christmas offering is a new adaptation of the classic story, The Wind in the Willows. At first you might think this an odd choice, it is not a traditional Christmas tale, but that is one of the many brilliant things about this show. The show has been adapted by Theresa Heskins but, unusually for the New Vic, not directed by her. Instead they have brought in Peter Wild to breathe new life into this classic show.
From the moment you enter the auditorium you know you are in for a treat. There are scenic elements hanging all around the theatre and the floor has been elaborately painted, including a special section to represent the river.
As with all New Vic productions the cast are second to none. The show features music specially written by Matt Baker, who is also the shows MD, that is played by members of the cast on varying instruments throughout the show. One minute someone is an animal, the next they are playing a keyboard! The music was one of the reasons why this story that we all know and love felt fresh and new. There was no point where you felt like you'd heard the story before. Rob Witcomb has the unenviable task of bringing the great Toad to life, he does this with effortless ease and the audience are drawn into Toads life from the start. When he is in prison you are almost crying along with him and when he is splashing the cash and acting frivolously you want to scream at him to stop. Another superb performance is given by Emma Manton, who plays Badger. All of the actors are brilliant but these 2 really shone out.
One of the highlight scenes was the boat on the river. The stage of the theatre magically transforms into the river with fish swimming around underneath and the boat effortlessly moves around the stage whilst Ratty and Mole enjoy a boating trip.
I love everything about this show, I could watch it again and again. It is a show suitable for all the family and a great way to introduce young children to the magic of theatre at Christmas.
Reviewed by Daniel Keen
The Wind in the Willows runs at the New Vic Theatre until Saturday 26th January 2019. For more information and tickets visit the theatres website.
All photos by Andrew Billington