Heckington Players’ The Wind In The Willows
Review by John Lyon
A large audience arrived at Heckington Village Hall to be transported by Heckington Players into Alan Bennett’s adaption of The Wind in the Willows, written by Kenneth Grahame.
The stage lights revealed a luscious river scene where we met the first characters - Ratty (Oliver Guilliatt) and Mole (Matt Brown) in a bright blue rowing boat - the first of many innovative sets used.
Oliver Guilliatt’s performance as the somewhat upright and reserved Ratty was excellent, his clean, clipped accent and ‘traditionally British’ attitude to good manners and correct grammar providing an authoritative yet fatherly foil to the innocent, youthful conduct of Matt Brown as Moley. The tranquillity of the setting is upset by the arrival of an Otter (Matthew Grubb), attired in a blue striped swimsuit, who interrupts their quiet picnic to help himself to Moley’s sausage roll. The loud, blustery entrance of the rambunctious Mr Toad (Andrew Key) breaks the peaceful tranquillity.
Mr Toad’s flighty and self centred character instantly endeared him to the audience as we watched a somewhat reluctant Rat and an excited Mole being dragged into his latest adventure – caravanning. Toad’s most recent purchase is pulled by his somewhat reluctant and depressive horse, Albert, played wonderfully by Steve Spencer.
A car abruptly ends Toad’s love affair with caravanning and kick starts his desire to drive, an addiction which eventually lands him in court, where he flippantly offends the indecisive judge (Mary Cummins) and ends up being sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.
Toad makes his escape dressed as an old washerwoman but bumps into the weasels – the villains in the play. The chief weasel, (Stuart Wyle) and his sidekick, Norma (Niki Kirk) plot, scheme and terrorise the other animals. But wise and steady Badger, played by Paul Sharman, plans a counter-attack to remove the weasels from Toad Hall and restore a more repentant Mr Toad.
An adventurous performance, the play was executed brilliantly. The confidence and professionalism of the whole cast shone through. The scenery and set were spectacular as were their brilliant costumes. Cameo performances by mice, hedgehogs and squirrels (and even some humans) helped to set the rural scene. Musical interludes linked scenes seamlessly and song accompaniments were performed faultlessly by Donald Cummins at the piano.
Congratulations to all the members of the Heckington Players (on and off stage) and their director, Jo Marriott for producing an outstanding performance.