If there’s a more joyous, more life-affirming, and more loveable family show than The Wind in the Wilton’s happening anywhere in London this Christmas I don’t know where it is.
Riffing off Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 tale of life down on the riverbank, Piers Torday has created a contemporary London allegory of ordinary folk standing up to the evils of capitalism, and in doing so has managed to produce something that has the children in the audience entranced, but which fully engages and entertains the adults too.
On the surface it’s the tale of poor dispossessed mole who finds his house bulldozed to make way for the stoats and weasels to build a road down to the riverbank so that it can be ‘developed’ and flogged off for housing.
However, dig a little deeper, and it’s the story of the little man standing up to bureaucracy and triumphing against seemingly insurmountable odds, along the way realising that life is so much better, and so much more can be achieved, if you have friends.
All that with a healthy dollop of contemporary political scepticism squeezed in – there’s even a quote from a not-long-departed Prime Minister – and some very on-message eco-credentials.
However, the reason to be completely drawn in from the very start is the casting.
The owner of the home about to be flattened is Mole, and if you don’t instantly fall in love and care about Corey Montague Sholay, with his big fur coat, oversized spectacles, and measured delivery then honestly you must have no soul.
Mole, with his bookish nature, slightly obsessive health and safety preoccupation, and love of the finer things in life, is the way into the other creatures who come thick and fast.
First there’s Rosie Wyatt as a Rat, an on-the-go courier, who likes nothing more than messing around on the river.
Through her Mole meets Badger, a wonderfully formidable Melody Brown as the bag-recycling, march-going political conscience of the show.
Then through her we get to meet the irrepressible Darrell Brockis, as Mr Toad who, in spite of his living for the moment, being instantly attracted to every new and flashy consumer item, and being in thrall to shiny things, is almost as loveable at Mole.
Chris Nayak as Otter provides the subplot and the Act One cliff-hanger with his very cutely realised puppet-daughter from Samuel Wyer, but this is really an ensemble show where you’ll want to cheer the good animals, and hiss at the baddies – and Tom Chapman’s capitalist Weasel really is as bad as they come…
A rather beautiful set from Tom Piper, and a varied score from Chris Warner give the actor-musician cast scope to shine, but it’s the storytelling that draws in both young and old and keeps them.
There were plenty of children in the audience last night, and there was hardly a peep out of any of them that wasn’t as a direct result of what was happening on stage.
I’m not too proud to relate that as an adult I way thoroughly engrossed, and found tears running down my cheeks at the end too.
For many of the children in the audience I would guess that this was their first outing to a proper professional show. They’re in luck. Wilton’s is the place where magic happens. A perfect Christmas treat.
- Drama (family friendly)
- Book & Lyrics: Piers Torday after Kenneth Grahame
- Music: Chris Warner
- Director: Elizabeth Freestone
- Starring: Corey Montague Sholay, Darrell Brockis, Melody Brown, Tom Chapman, Paula James, Chris Nayak, Rosie Wyatt, Adam Redmore
- Venue: Wilton’s Music Hall
- Until: 31st December 2022
- Running time: 120 minutes with 1 x 20 minute interval