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Criterion Theatre
The Wind in the Willows (2018)
Alan Bennett (adapted from the novel by Kenneth Grahame)
Sat 1st December to Sat 8th December

Alan Bennett's stage adaptation of The Wind in the Willows has become a classic in its own right.

Director – Bill Butler
Production Photos
Toad – Nicol Cortese
Badger – Matt Sweatman
Mole – Summer Marsden
Chief Weasel – Cathryn Bowler
Albert – Alan Fenn
Otter, Wilfred, Clerk, Ticket Clerk – Emma Whewell
Portly, Norman – Ted Mcgowan
Billy, Robert, Rupert – James Smith
Tommy, Gaoler's daughter – Shanice Christie
Herbert, Harry, Police Officer – Chris Ingall
Rose, Ronald, Bargewoman – Helen McGowan
Shirley, Ian, Cyril – Madeleine Levy
Raymond, Samuel, Washerwoman – Susan Hadlum
Fox, Monica, Gypsy – Lilian McGrath
Parkinson, Magistrate – Pete Bagley
Train Driver, Sgt. Fred – Dave Crisp
Assistant Director – Leonie Slater
Stage Manager – Becky Cribdon
Lighting Design – Sarah Basford
Sound Design – Becky Bartlett
Sound Design – Becky Bartlett
Set Design – Paul Chokran
Wardrobe i/c – Pam Coleman
Set Painting i/c – Paul Chokran
Props – Sally Patalong
Props – Erica Young
Props – Bill Young
Musical Director – Bill Bosworth
Artwork Design – David Butler
Lighting Design – George Rippon
Props – Sally Patalong
Wardrobe – Chris Mavrakis
Wardrobe – Shannon McGiff
Wardrobe – Chris Murly
Wardrobe – Liz Stevens
Wardrobe – Claire Sylvester
Wardrobe – Nancy Sylvester
Wardrobe – Judy Talbot
Wardrobe – Rowena Tye
Wardrobe – Helen Withers
Set Build i/c – Simon Sharpe
Set Build – Sarah Basford
Set Build – Jess Cornwall
Set Build – Terry Cornwall
Set Build – Frances Dixon
Set Build – Chris Hernon
Set Build – Jenson Jones
Set Build – Lukasz Nowacki
Set Build – Terry Rahilly
Set Build – Mike Waterson
Set Build – Kevin Woods
Set Painting – Paul Chokran
Set Painting – Judy Talbot
Sound Operation – Becky Bartlett
Lighting Team – Lily Barber
Lighting Team – Frances Dixon
Lighting Team – George Rippon
Wise Owl & Prompt – Jonathan Rees
The Band
Accordian... – Richard Hastie
Banjolele – Paul Forey
Bass Guitar – McGrath Ted
Guitar – David Butler
Guitar – Suzy Indigo
Percussion – David Butler
Violin – Laura McGowan
Rehearsal Pianist – Lynne Adams

“Believe me, my young friend, there is absolutely nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. In them or out of them, it doesn’t matter. Whether you get away or you don’t, whether you arrive at your destination or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy.”


Ever since Grahame’s novel was published in 1908 the characters of Ratty, Mole, Toad and Badger have delighted generations of readers. Alan Bennett’s adaptation is both true to the original yet carries the distinctive Bennett hallmark of delightfully witty jokes.


Press Comment


"Alan Bennett's stage adaptation of The Wind in the Willows has become a classic in its own right. If Kenneth Grahame's riverside characters were affectionate portraits of his friends, the enduring appeal of the stage version is that they seem to provide a composite of Bennett. There is Mole, the benign, quiet provincial peering at life through thick spectacles. Then Ratty, the urbane, Oxbridge-educated vole of letters, Badger, a gruff member of the establishment who doesn't like to be disturbed, and Toad, who might be seen as Bennett's wicked side.” Alfred Hickling. The Guardian.


This amateur production of "The Wind in the Willows" (Bennett) was presented by special arrangement with SAMUEL FRENCH LTD. 





Review by Barbara Goulden - Elementary What’s On

Kenneth Graham first wrote Wind in the Willows and tales of life on the riverbank in 1908. His story about Ratty, Moley, Badger and the incorrigible Toad didn't need updating...but Alan Bennett did it anyway, first in 1991 and again in 1996. And thanks to Bennett, the story in this dramatised form can be enjoyed by both children and adults, albeit on different levels. At The Criterion in Earlsdon, the kids may miss some of the new subtleties - like the depressed horse (Alan Fenn) announcing all property is theft - but still scream with laughter at the antics of Nicol Cortese as Toad. And what a brilliant, acrobatic, pistol-packing Toad she makes with the stolid support of Matt Sweatman as the reliable Badger with his stout cudgel, not to mention Summer Marsden as timid Mole and Anne-marie Greene (Rat), who arrives on stage steering a very creditable boat made up of two office swivel chairs. I loved the inventiveness of this production, the giant sun and the green mound that opens up into underground homes.

Among the audience was eight-year-old George Leaf who laughed heartily at the rogue Weasels, led by the lavishly-furred Cathryn Bowler, while his younger sister Olivia, aged seven, adored Toad's antics in his cars and caravans...not to mention his spectacular crashes.  These were all the more powerful for being heard off-stage. Both children also loved the sneakiness of Toad, the hunt for him among the audience and, needless to say, the fight scenes.

Bennett was sneaky too, introducing his updated cracks about stately homes, the injustice of inherited wealth and even takeaway meals. Although in the wild wood food on the move has a slightly more realistic connotation.

However, please note, no hedgehogs, otters, rabbits, squirrels, fieldmice, foxes, ferrets and stoats were harmed during this colourful, musical  production...well hardly any.  The bad news is that the play - which is quite long and so perhaps best suited for seven-years up to grandparents - is already a sell-out.Then again, if like Toad, money is no object and you don't mind the phone bill, it might well be worth pestering the box office for cancellations. 



Review by Nick Le Mesurier

The Criterion serves up a welcome alternative to the usual Christmas fayre in their affectionate and clever performance of Alan Bennett’s adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s masterpiece, ‘The Wind in
the Willows’.
Some see the story of the four chaps from the English middle-classes simply as a tale of friendship and comic daring-do set in a bucolic England. Others see the recapture of Toad Hall from the rebellious weasels as an act of counter-revolution in which the establishment firmly puts the lower orders in their place. Because it so successfully manages to be both at the same time it deserves its place in the English psyche.
Not that one can easily avoid the satirical elements within the story, and particularly in Bennett’s adaptation. Mole (Summer Marsden) has many a squeaky charm, her character all youthful impulse and enthusiasm. He holds another, albeit unwitting, appeal to the older male characters in the story. Ratty, (Anne-Marie Green) is a slightly donnish character, who is clearly in love with his protégé. And
Badger (Matt Sweatman), while he is the very embodiment of British authority, also leans heavily in
favour of Mole’s innocent charms.
The Criterion’s production features a strongly female cast in a traditionally very male oriented story, which helps it to handle the sexually subversive elements with a certain delicacy,
placing the warmth and the humour of the story centre stage. But they’re nevertheless there, a tongue in the cheek of the Edwardian era it reflects.
While the acting and the production are great throughout, the star role on stage has to be Nicol Cortese’s athletic portrayal of Toad. She is a bundle of hopping energy, bouncing everywhere, now flying high on the thrill of cars and caravans, cleverly outwitting the law with never a thought for the
consequences; now in the depths of despair when imprisoned and made to confront his folly. Not that he does this for long: Toad’s light can never be extinguished, and Nicol Cortese’s comic talent dazzles an already colourful show.
There are too many good supporting actors to mention by name, but I can’t go without acknowledging Alan Fenn’s wonderfully lugubrious Albert the Horse, a Black Country study in sardonic humour, and Helen McGowan’s extraordinary Bargewoman, who was straight out of cockney music hall.
The play is all sold out, which says something for the Criterion’s reputation, their taste in choosing the play and presenting it at the beginning of December, before the usual stuff of Christmas gets into full swing, and the appeal of a story that continues to speak to us at many levels across the barriers of time and class and attitude.


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