Review: Wind in the Willows at the New Vic, Newcastle under Lyme

Writer: Kenneth Grahame

Adapter: Theresa Heskins

Director: Peter Leslie Wild

For the first time in many years, Theresa Heskins passes over the Director rains for the New Vic Christmas Show to Peter Leslie Wild. However, audiences should not fear as it contains the same elements of New Vic creativity and warmth that they are used to.

Heskins, who adapts the original story, creates a narrative full of marvellous characters and an ending that’s unique and will be sure to leave people thinking about the spirit of Christmas. While the Plot is fairly loose in the first act it does pick up well in the second with a prison escape, a train chase and a battle to save Toad Hall to name a few.

While the ending is a very sweet and sincere, there could have been more in the way of Mr Toads development to aid the tying up all the loose ends. The same could be said for the creatures of the Wild Wood and their desire to learn and escape from the situation they are in. It’s only something that’s really picked up on in the last few moments.

Wild notes in the programme he has seen the last ten New Vic Christmas shows and there are plenty of examples of moments that have been staple elements of the festive production that regulars will be fond of, such as slow-motion crashes and the ability to make large action scenes using little else other than imagination.

The scarier Wild Wood is brought to life by Laura Willstead’s set design. She has worked together with Lighting and Projection Designer Daniella Beattie to create a very eerily place using lighting and some fabric slithering down from the rathers. Willstead’s pop up Caravan is also quite something to see appear right in front of you and is bound to amaze the younger members of the audience.

Rob Witcomb is a very charming and Mr Toad. He leaps across the the stage with charisma and a large sense of freedom while he also manages to execute the more sombre mood of Mr Toad towards the end of act two.

Sophia Matfield’s Mrs Otter is quite lovely but also pretty scary. You certainly don’t want to get on the wrong side of her. Finally, Matthew Burns brings to life the second New Vic Horse of the year. For saying the horse hasn’t got much stage time, Burns ensures that it has its mark on the audience. He not only gets the audiences giggling but also makes a poignant point about respecting those who often go under the radar unthanked which bookends the production nicely.

The Music composed by Matt Baker starts off representing the calm and collected surroundings of the lake and the homes of the creatures that live there. However, similar to the pace of the plot, when the animals of the Wild Wood start to take over they become much stronger. These may not be songs you remember after the show but they do add atmosphere and help to tell the tale which concludes with a sweet composition that will bring a little bit of festive cheer to those who see it.

This charming production will go down well with audiences young and old. From the talented cast, to the beautifully designed stage and atmospheric music. There are lots to enjoy in this festive production. While there could be more done in the script to develop the characters, particularly Mr Toad and the creatures of the Wild Woof, the themes of friendship, caring and sharing do shine through prominently to conclude a sweet story full of imagination and creativity.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

*Decision based on a Ticket value price of £24.50.For more info on this new value for money rating please visit here: Introducing a new kind of rating

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