The blurb for Southwark Playhouse’s latest production, Toad, a new adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, promises that you will be “more than an audience, you’ll become part of the Wild Wood itself”.
What this really means is that, for one scene, two of the characters will run up the central aisle. Other than that, what we have is a production which tries to think of itself as edgy and innovative, but despite the best efforts of the cast fails to deliver on those points while still remaining entertaining.
Any stage adaptation of The Wind in the Willows must by necessity require some degree of imagination in the minds of the audience, as the woodland creatures of the novel are portrayed on stage by very obviously human actors. It’s possibly this part of the production where Toad is most successful. The water-loving Ratty is decked out in his sailing all-weather gear, Toad himself wears green waders, a light mac and green swimming goggles. Most effective of all, the creatures of the Wild Wood – Weasel, Stoat and Ferrett – are decked out in camouflage gear, making their initial emergence from the Wild Wood (the Vault’s twin tunnels, hauntingly lit) all the more effective.