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Review: The Wind in the Willows at Norwich Theatre Royal

PUBLISHED: 11:24 07 August 2014 | UPDATED: 12:47 07 August 2014

The Theatre Royal arts course students rehearsing for their 2014 show. This year it's a performance of The Wind in The Willows.
 Picture by: Sonya Duncan

The Theatre Royal arts course students rehearsing for their 2014 show. This year it's a performance of The Wind in The Willows. Picture by: Sonya Duncan

The stage at Norwich Theatre Royal has been lovingly recreated as the familiar countryside of yesteryear for this charming production based on Kenneth Grahame’s classic tale.

Former students from the Theatre Arts Course return to the Theatre Royal for cameo appearances in The Wind in the Willows. From left, film star Sam Claflin (Rat); his brother Joe Claflin (Mole); Daniel Burgess (Toad); Lisa Ellis (Mrs Otter) and Theatre Arts Course director, David Lambert. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYFormer students from the Theatre Arts Course return to the Theatre Royal for cameo appearances in The Wind in the Willows. From left, film star Sam Claflin (Rat); his brother Joe Claflin (Mole); Daniel Burgess (Toad); Lisa Ellis (Mrs Otter) and Theatre Arts Course director, David Lambert. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The familiar faces of Ratty, Mole, Mr Toad and wise old Badger are assembled for director David Lambert’s retelling of the children’s favourite. The young cast bring a joyful energy to their roles. Sam Ings’ rakish Water Rat; Joe Darbyshire’s kindly, timid Mole; Tom Quadling’s stern and loyal Badger and Dominic Sands as the hapless, show-stealing Mr Toad create a loveable team, aided wonderfully by an impressive chorus of clucky ducks, villainous Wild-Wooders and all the other inhabitants of the riverbank, who feel as familiar as childhood friends.

The show is also a celebration of Mr Lambert’s 25th year at the helm of the theatre’s arts courses, and several alumni of the illustrious youth company have returned to lend their considerable presence in cameo roles.

Sam and Joe Claflin, now better known for Hollywood and television roles, returned for the opening night to tread the Theatre Royal boards once more, as a tip of the straw boater to the company and director who have launched the careers of so many.

The music, directed by Charlie Caine, along with Cat Chapman’s choreography, is a cheerful, clap-along delight, which had many of the near capacity crowd dancing in their seats.

The theatre royal arts course students are rehearsing for their annual show. This year it's a performance of The Wind in The Willows. Picture by: Sonya Duncan.The theatre royal arts course students are rehearsing for their annual show. This year it's a performance of The Wind in The Willows. Picture by: Sonya Duncan.

Stalls full of children sang, laughed and watched transfixed, while parents were permitted a wry chuckle at the odd line thrown in for their benefit. For those seeing the story for the first time, it was a fine introduction to the Riverbank; for those revisiting Grahame’s rural world, it filled you with a nostalgia for long summer days and cherished childhood stories.

Old and young alike will be humming the tunes of the willows gleefully on the journey home.

• The show is at Norwich Theatre Royal until Saturday, August 9, with different arts course alumni appearing in cameo roles each night.

• To book tickets call 01603 630000 or visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

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