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The Wind in the Willows (York Theatre Royal)

Toad and the gang return to the Theatre Royal stage in Mike Kenny's adaptation

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

As befits such an enduring family favourite, York Theatre Royal and Mike Kenny's adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows feels very familiar.

Robin Simpson (Mole), Martin Barrass (Mr. Toad) and Jonathan Race (Ratty) in The Wind in the Willows
© John Saunders

Familiar as it is based on a production last seen at the theatre in 2010, familiar also as many of the cast resurrecting their roles from that production are well known faces to the York theatre-going audience; among others, Michael Lambourne (Chief Weasel), Jonathan Race (Ratty) and, of course, Martin Barrass (Mr Toad) Have all graced this theatre's stage in other productions in recent times.

None of which counts against this production. The familiarity of the actors with their parts and the space combines with the lovingly crafted design of Catherine Chapman and Lydia Denno (be sure to make the most of their beautifully detailed work by taking the backstage tour before the show) to create a very welcoming and comfortable feel.

Structurally this production is also familiar. The first half is more introspective and existential in tone as Mole, in response to the changing of the seasons, is moved to explore the world above his underground home. There he is befriended by the urbane Ratty and his pals, the curmudgeonly Badger and the erratic Mr Toad.

Mole's growing curiosity leads him in to a potentially dangerous encounter in the Wild Wood but generally he and his new friends spend their time considering life while enjoying the relative safety of the Riverbank.

The second half is a much broader and raucous affair in which the increasingly reckless exploits of Mr Toad, and his obsession with the new fangled motor car, take centre stage. Barrass is clearly revelling being back in Mr. Toad's over-sized shoes and fizzes around the stage with customary energy.

The production as a whole is full of gentle, whimsical fun and is clearly put together with a huge amount of love.

The Wind in the Willows continues at York Theatre Royal until 30 August 2014.

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