“For my life, I confess to you, feels to me today somewhat narrow and circumscribed.”
― Kenneth Grahame,
With the cold of winter creeping closer, and the nights darkening, Kenneth Grahame’s words above, can sometimes feel entirely relatable. That is, until you manage to steal yourself away, to the other worlds that the theatre has to offer.
Last Wednesday saw us squirreled away, warm as toast in The Lowry’s Lyric Theatre. Life was far from narrow and circumscribed. For as good Theatre is designed too, our imaginations were freed and our hearts moved by Julian Fellowes (of Downton Abbey fame) and his stage adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows.
Growing up in Australia as a young immigrant, my parents always made sure that we did not miss out on quintessential English literature. While the creatures of my childhood where vastly different to those of Kenneth Grahame’s world, Mole, Ratty, Toad and Co where firm fixtures, at least in spirit within a young girls heart.
“I’m going to make an animal out of you, my boy!”
― Kenneth Grahame,
Stiles and Drewe, added to the magic as both music and lyric were intertwined into the story, and Fellowes retelling was captivating from the moment the curtain rose.
Clever stage changes and moving sets captured what life in the Thames Valley must have been like for both the animals and Grahame alike. One could sense the flow of the river, the darkness of the forest and the comfort of homely burrows. With a minimalist and uncluttered stage, the costumes and well-chosen props added greatly to the story being told.
The actors did their characters proud, and each one brought believability and made them come alive. It was easy for me to love them, and appreciate how crucial each one was to the camaraderie and friendship of the story. Like the circle of life, each one was integral and had their part to play in life and nature.
Interestingly my son (ten) was not as enraptured as I was.
He loved the antics of Mr Toad, and yes, the rascally weasels, stoats and foxes. He loved the friendship of Ratty, Mole and Toad. But he in truth was not as captivated as I. We see several productions throughout the year, and this to be honest, was a ‘meh’ moment for him. I almost cried, it was so opposite to how I left the theatre. He had not fallen in love, as I had wanted him too.
I had noticed how ‘adult’ the audience was, but to be fair we didn’t see it in half term. Still, I was surprised by how few schools were in attendance. A shame really.
Would I recommend it? Absolutely, the other children I was sat with, seemed to be chatting away merrily at the end of the musical, withtheir parents all talking of happy memory making.
My own feelings were those of contentment as I left the theatre. A childhood story being retold well, filling me once more with the magic and imagination that I had first felt all those years ago.