The Wind in

the Willows

Programme

Characters in the play: 

Rat:

Mole:

Toad:

Badger:

Otter:

Duck:

Chief Weasel:

Weasel Adviser:

Jemima Bouvier (motorist):

Policeman:

Magistrate:

Clerk:

Gaoler's Daughter:

Guard:

Marge the Bargewoman:

DAVID

RACHEL

CALLUM

DAVID

CALLUM

CALLUM

CALLUM

DAVID

RACHEL

DAVID

RACHEL

DAVID

RACHEL

DAVID

RACHEL

For this production:

Writer & Director:

Producer:

Music:

Set Design:

Costume: 

Poster Design:

OLIVER GRAY

STEPHEN BADHAM

BEN WILES

ALAN MUNDEN

PAT FARMER

FRAZER MARR

Special thanks to:

Dean Horner

All the staff and volunteers at our venues.

Illyria's Survival Fund:

The Covid-19 crisis has left Illyria in an extremely vulnerable financial position meaning we may not make it to 2021.

If you would like to help us survive, you can donate to our GoFund Me by clicking there.

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CALLUM STEWART

This is Callum's third Illyria show and he hopes to give an absolutely ribbeting performance as Toad of Toad Hall. When he got the phone call with the job offer and realised he needed to leave his lockdown he nearly poop pooped his pants.

In the past you may have seen him as Empress in The Emperor's New Clothes and in The Adventures of Doctor Dolittle as countless animals including - but not limited to - a Pig, a Rat, a Cat, a Bull and a Crocodile, but never, until now, an amphibian.

In recent years he has also been found handing out flyers in the rain at fringe festivals, touring Europe and China and visiting schools back in the U.K. to teach kids about the joys of being a chartered surveyor.

Callum is also currently doing extensive research to prove once and for all that a Magnum is not a ice lolly,  but a posh choc ice on a stick, please let him know your own findings on Twitter @CallumCStewart  

DAVID SAYERS

After appearing in Danny the Champion of the World, The Merchant of Venice and The Tempest, David was feeling a bit RATTY this summer, but after BADGERing Oliver repeatedly he is absolutely delighted to be back with Illyria again.

 

Owing to the dangers of a certain pandemic he is totally prepared to GUARD his fellow cast members during this tour and POLICE every MAN, woman, child and riverside animal! Over the last few months he’s been busy WEASELing away in the garden, playing his cello (badly) and watching lots of Doctor Who. Therefore his wife is very pleased to be rid of him for a good two months!

 

He thought he was being clever trying incorporate all his characters into this biog but is now stuck on the last one. So……..CLERK!

RACHEL O'HARE

The events of 2020 so far have led to Rachel deciding to burrow deep underground, which has been great preparation for this role.

 

Wearing glasses since age 7, she has an astoundingly similar visual impairment to underground creatures. Other similarities include small ears and five fingers. However, in this production she will also have to stretch herself to play human characters, which will be a challenge but she’s trying not to make a mountain out of a mole hill.


This is Rachel’s fourth appearance for Illyria, previous to this season she has sewn The Emperor’s New Clothes, solved the mystery of The Hound of the Baskervilles and weathered The Tempest. Last winter, she helped run HQ at the Eden Project’s beautiful grotto as the very practical ‘Mother Christmas’. She simply couldn’t be more delighted to brush off her steel toe cap boots for this year’s beautiful and evocative classic.

OLIVER GRAY - DIRECTOR

 

Oliver was born on the south coast and now lives on the west coast. He made his professional acting debut as a dalek and a cyberman in “Dr Who The Ultimate Adventure”. Whenever he googles his name he suspects that this might have been the highlight of his career. He has appeared in the West End in “The BFG”, on TV for 2 years in “The Bill”, and for 10 pantomime seasons as one half of the award-winning outrageous ugly sister act Lav and Lou. He founded Illyria 29 years ago, has written 19 of its shows, and this is the 65th production he has directed for the company. He has recently discovered passions for statistics, gardening and baking bread.

THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS

 

“The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home.” I remember the very first time this opening sentence was read to me. I was in bed. I was six years old. My mother was sat on the edge of the bed reading from a red bound copy of The Wind in the Willows. 

 

My deep affection for this wonderful book has lasted throughout my life, and I know I am not alone in loving it well into adulthood. It has an obvious, instant attractiveness, in that it features one of the most gloriously boisterous characters ever created in a series of crazy adventures, Mr Toad. 

 

But beyond Toad, there are three more central characters, who are each very attractive to children, and who are all understood more deeply as an adult. Mole, charming and polite but with a driving sense of adventure; Rat, torn between love for his home and a restless wanderlust which gnaws away at him; and Badger, gruff, private, authoritative – but actually a little incompetent and at heart an utter softie. Each of them is defined by an inner conflict or inconsistency, which makes them so very human and so immediately lovable.

 

Perhaps one of the reasons why this story enjoys such great popularity is that there is a bit each of the four main characters in all of us. 

 

I have enjoyed adapting The Wind in the Willows enormously, but have been all too aware that my adaptation has been preceded, and remains vastly overshadowed, by those of two writers of towering stature: A A Milne and Alan Bennett. Milne’s TOAD OF TOAD HALL, written in 1929, is a tremendous work, concentrating as its title suggests on the adventures of Toad, while Alan Bennett’s play restores a little more balance to the other characters. The rights for both scripts are expensive and beyond the reach of a professional company the size of Illyria. This provided an excellent incentive for me to knuckle down and write my own.

 

In his introduction to the printed edition of his play, Alan Bennett writes: “If presented on the stage in the same way as in the book, Rat, Mole and Badger would find it hard to retain an audience’s attention because they are so relentlessly nice… all the faults that make for an interesting character are reserved for Toad.” I simply cannot agree with this. And I am perennially annoyed by lazy adaptions focusing too heavily on Toad and too little on the other characters. I wanted my adaptation to draw on the inner conflicts present in Kenneth Grahame’s original. That is why I have retained the “Wayfarers All” sequence in which Rat meets a traveller and decides to leave home (cut out by both Milne and Bennett), and why I have emphasised Mole’s enthusiasm for adventure and Badger’s assumption of his own suitability for leadership.

 

The title of the book is something of an oddity. No wind blows in the book beyond the occasional balmy breeze, and willows only feature sporadically and in passing - and none of them is disturbed by any wind. So why did Kenneth Grahame choose this title? In fact it was suggested to him by his publisher (who rejected the original title “The adventures of Mole and Rat”) and is a quote from a poem by William Morris from his novel THE WELL AT THE WORLD’S END. It describes a particular sound, a constant background that evokes many ideas: an overwhelming attachment to an improbably perfect home; a powerful and restless call to adventure; an unspoken understanding between sensitive animals; an appreciation of the great beauty of the natural world. It is also just one of the elements used create a nostalgic feel that permeates the whole story, a flavour of which I have tried to maintain. It is particularly poignant to recall that just six years after Grahame published The Wind in the Willows in 1908 the old world was indeed to be changed forever in a convulsion of horrific violence.

 

It is almost impossible to stage THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS without making statements, intentionally or otherwise, that are political. Toad is wealthy, and Rat, Mole and Badger are able to lead lives where both food and leisure are plentiful. The hungry Wild-Wooders are envious, and raise a revolution to take over Toad Hall. In adaptation after adaptation, possibly influenced by some of the original illustrations by E H Shepherd, or even by Kenneth Grahame himself, the central characters are Edwardian middle-class gentlemen of independent means, whereas the Wild-Wooders are the pesky bolsheviks determined to relieve Toad of his wealth. This does not sit comfortably with me. Yes, the central characters lead lives where they don’t need to have jobs - but they are animals, so why would they have jobs? In fact they have very little money (apart from Toad) and lead lives that are both simple and quiet. Whereas the Wild-Wooders are keen to appropriate capital in a decidedly dodgy way and to make life as difficult as possible for the Riverbankers. This suggested to me not just a different political landscape from the one normally adopted for adaptations of this book, but one that is in fact the polar opposite. That’s why my central characters are ordinary folk (apart from Toad of course) and my Wild-Wooders are… well, you’ll see.

 

The true soul of THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS is to be found in its depictions of Friendship and to Home. For it is Friendship which overcomes every trial and tribulation we face, and Home which makes life worth living.

 

OLIVER GRAY

Illyria. Outdoor theatre and open air theatre in the United Kingdom. Shakespeare, Gilbert & Sullivan, Children's Theatre, Family, Classics, Jane Austen.
National Trust Theatre.

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