When I was asked to review this show, I instantly had a nostalgic flashback, as the first play or show I can remember going to see was Toad of Toad Hall at the Theatre Royal in Lincoln as a child. This production is Alan Bennett’s adaptation of the Kenneth Grahame original, and I was greatly looking forward to seeing how this group would deliver the material.
As in the book, the play opens with Mole (Sarah Newman) discovering a new world outside his underground home. He is stumbled upon by Ratty (Alison Silver) who takes them both boating. After getting to know each other, the two meet the bombastic Toad (Mark Newman) and discover his predilection for anything new – including motorcars! Eventually, following a frightening encounter with the Weasels in Wild Wood (Mark Everett and Lawrence Brookfield), the two finally make their way meet Badger (Ron Perry). Together they try to contain Toad’s excesses, but ultimately they fail and have to witness Toad’s downfall and imprisonment for stealing a car, but more for being disrespectful to the judge.
The cast had an excellent grasp of their characters, with both Sarah and Mark Newman in particular deployed to the full. My feeling was that Alison Silver could have been a little more aloof as Ratty, who generally seems to be in world of his own, only really noticing the other characters when he trips over them. This is a very small comment, and once again this group took me wholly into their world. There were some lovely cameos, especially with Janet Newman pretending to have nothing whatsoever to do with Mark, and Graham Simpson as the put-upon but educated horse, Albert.
I have seen better shows from this group, but not many. They set the bar so high in such straightforward surroundings that they still outstrip most other amateur societies, even with a show that was a little hesitant at times. None the less, their patrons are such a knowledgeable group that this show was sold out weeks before opening night. Their faith was not misplaced, and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening