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Riverside Players - Toad of Toad Hall

23rd to 27th August 2005.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Very English affair

The Riverside Players: Toad of Toad Hall, in the open air theatre at Pangbourne College, from Tuesday, August 23 to Saturday, August 27

There's something reminiscent of country house summers in the early part of the last century about the Riverside Players annual open air production -those heady days when guests would dip into the attic to pull out costumes and devise an entertainment, in which the fun of doing was just as important as the end result.

Pulling together a bunch of wannabe actors from all over, who work in just about every profession under the sun, for eight days of rehearsal and set-building, then five days of performance and with AA Milne's stage adaptation of Kenneth Graham's Wind in the Willows, Toad of Toad Hall is as English as it comes. Old-fashioned mad-cap Englishness is alive and well in Pangbourne.

Although essentially an ensemble piece - there are no individual curtain calls - you can't deny the brash Toad his pedigree. (Ben) Starr by name (and by nature) carried the show with his comic portrayal, bedecked in loud check suit of plus-fours (or eights?). Poop poop. So very Graham Norton.

Vainly striving to save him from his motor car madness, and demise of trial and punishment, not to mention a bunch of sycophantic and deliciously malicious weasels, stoats and ferrets set to over-run his ancestral home, are good old Badger (Colin Burnie), Rat (Paul Stephenson) and Mole (Heather Saunders). Such solid chaps to have behind one.

The chorus of hillbilly weasels and court officials absorbed all-comers, from the youngest children to their grandparents, rank amateur and seasoned performer alike.

And there was a right old rodent walloping as Toad escaped the clutches of the law to reclaim his Hall.

On the whole it was a jolly good gad about and great fun to boot. Poop poop.