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 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Haymarket - The Wind in the Willows

6th December 2005 to 7th January 2006.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Croaking good show

The Wind in the Willows, at the Haymarket Theatre, Basingstoke, until January 7

If you're looking for a family Christmas show that is a bit different from all the Aladdins and Cinderellas on offer, you are unlikely to do better than the Haymarket's delightful The Wind in the Willows.

Freely-adapted by Philip Goulding from Kenneth Grahame's much-loved children's book, with music by Trevor Allan Davies, and directed by John Adams, the show successfully combines the traditional panto ingredients of slapstick, songs and silly jokes with something of the enchanted atmosphere of Grahame's Wild Wood and river-bank.

The story - covering Mr Toad's arrest for car-stealing, trial, imprisonment, escape in disguise, getaway by train, and battle to reclaim Toad Hall from the gang of weasels who have stolen it during his absence - is told clearly and briskly, so there is little danger of younger audience members becoming bored or restless.

A versatile and hard-working cast of six, with the aid of a team of child actors, portray Toad, Ratty, Badger, Mole and the Chief Weasel (without needing elaborate animal costumes), and human characters including Trevor the engine driver, Lord and Lady Cookham-Dean and a car salesman - as well as showing expertise on a variety of musical instruments.

It all looks extremely pretty, thanks to designer Elroy Ashmore. In addition to a splendid Toad Hall, the set features a real stretch of water, complete with boat, for falling (or being thrown) into. Toad's car, in a nod to the production's sponsor, is registered AA1.

The performance lasts for two hours, with an interval long enough for a drink, an ice-cream and a look at the themed merchandise on offer from the Henley River and Rowing Museum, which has a permanent Wind in the Willows exhibition.

And to help you get into the mood beforehand, the theatre restaurant's current menu includes Weasel's Soup of the Forest, Toady's Salmon Fillet and Badger's Turkey Breast.