The Wind In The Willows is Northern Stage main Christmas show this year, with The Little Boy Who Lost The Morning, playing for young children in their smaller venue.
Designer, Neil Murray, uses the vast stage to its full advantage, allowing the riverbank to come alive as we meet the animals. The detail in items such as the train, made from a giant roller skate, and a barge, which is a giant sardine can, are a delight to behold as we follow Rat, Mole, Badger and Toad on their adventures.
The story starts with Rat and Mole meeting before they follow Mr. Toad in his sort lived love of horse drawn caravans, before he changes his mind and wants a motor car, which we all know will end in disaster. All the time, behind our heroes backs, the Weasels are planning and scheming, before taking their chance to take over Toad Hall. But we know it will all turn out well in the end and with Badger as their guide, Rat, Mole and Toad soon win back Toad Hall.
While there is no doubting all the cast work extremely hard to capture the essence of the story and their characters, it is both Mark Benton (Toad) and Ruth Johnson (Mole) who seem born to play their current roles. Both actors bring their characters to life in a way that makes you watch their every move whenever they are on stage.
This adaptation of the Kenneth Grahame story is by Alan Bennett and it captures the real essence of the riverbank tales, however, the production is over long, especially in the first half. Unfortunately, Director Erica Whyman has chosen to introduce North East references to the production, which this classic tale simply does not need and musical arrangements by Tim Dalling, which slow down the already over long production.
However, there is plenty to enjoy in Wind In The Willows, and the outstanding performances by Mark Benton and Ruth Johnson are good enough reasons to buy a ticket.