Outdoor Theatre Review: Wind in the Willows by Tread the Boards

Once upon a time, the C word mostly meant Christmas. However, in times like these, the C word has meant Covid-19 aka Coronavirus which has put paid to a lot of our everyday pursuits. The theatre industry has been hit hard, with all indoor venues having to shut and outdoor performances only recently able to resume. The last time we went to the theatre was last Christmas time. But we were lucky to be treated to our first piece of theatre for a long time at Studley Cricket Club. Here is our outdoor theatre review of Wind in the Willows by Tread the Boards.

Outdoor Theatre treat – Wind in the Willows by Tread the Boards

Tread the Boards are an award winning theatre company based at the Attic Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. Founded by Catherine Prout and John-Robert Partridge in 2009, they pride themselves on producing a unique theatre experience in Stratford-upon-Avon. They are pleased to be performing the Kenneth Grahame classic ‘Wind in the Willows’ throughout August 2020 on a tour around Warwickshire and the West Midlands.

The company say:
We are extremely excited to be returning after lockdown, touring around Warwickshire and the West Midlands, including multiple outdoor venues in our home of Stratford-Upon-Avon. We are an outside, family friendly show and have taken measures to ensure the comfort and safety of our audiences.

What is the show about?

It’s been a while since I read ‘Wind in the Willows’, and it hasn’t yet reached our bookshelf with our little one, but I remember with delight about the characters of Toad, Badger, Mole and Ratty and their adventures on the river bank and the wild wood. This is a very much modernised version of Kenneth Grahame’s classic children’s story which the company delightfully bring to justice.

The plot line

Toad (John-Robert Partridge) is a bit of a crazy character with an obsession with motor cards. His friends, grumpy Badger (Pete Meredith), knowledgeable Ratty (Joe Deverell-Smith) and clumsy but lovable Mole (Alexandra Whitworth) try to put him on the straight and narrow. However, he gets himself into trouble ending up in jail. After his escape, his friends help him out to recapture his property ‘Toad Hall’ and save it from the evil Stoats and Weasels!

A treat for all members of the family

The storytelling in this performance is an absolute delight and a treat for all members of the family. We watched this with our 4 year old daughter who loved the show from start to finish (as did we) and loved seeing the characters come to life. Even though there was no river, Ratty and Mole still found a way of rowing down it. The stage was beautifully decorated with artifical grass to create the sense of the river bank. And Toad’s ‘motor car’ is hilariously portrayed! (You’ll have to watch it to see what I mean!)

The river bank animals come to life!

The company performed with a huge amount of charisma and their passion for bringing this classic tale to life was an absolute joy. The actors did a great job in behaving as their respective animals. Ratty with his ratty face and paws. Mole (who lives in a hole) with her rounded face and inquisitive nature. Badger with his fetching black & white hairdo and Toad with his big round belly.

A few surprises

The fact that we have spent the last 5 months or so under lockdown has not been forgotten by the production company. Toad, Badger, Ratty and Mole manage to shoe-horn many Corona related references into the show. This must be the first play I’ve seen where characters actively anti-bac their hands! This was one of many topical references which provided light relief to the situation we currently find ourselves in. The jokes (virus related and not) were extremely funny, the slap-stick well choreographed and the use of music perfect with the story. The lip-syncing scene that takes place to the tune of a Queen classic kept us on the edge of our seats.

Bringing the glory of live theatre back

Tread the Boards are so happy to bring live theatre back and we are happy to have seen one of their first performances. It is such a shame to see the arts industry suffer and it is great to be able to support them whilst enjoying theatre again. Yes, it’s not inside but that does not matter. We have luckily enjoyed warm weather so far this summer. If it rains, bring an umbrella! (We are British after all, expect all types of weather). The tour takes place in outdoor venues that have been specifically chosen for their size, setup and location.

Inspiring others

Little C has also definitely been inspired. She is a budding little actress herself and it has been a while since she had the opportunity to perform. She would definitely like to take part in things like this herself in the future and it is great to see theatre companies interact with the community. They certainly ignite the passion for theatre for anyone who likes to watch and also partake!

Socially distanced seating

We attended the performance at Studley Cricket Club in Warwickshire near Redditch. The organisers assign a socially distanced ‘pod’ measuring about 3 metres to every household or ‘bubble’ who booked tickets. These were spaced out to adhere to social distancing. Here, we could set up our own picnic blankets or chairs. Limited numbers of tickets are sold so the audience size was not huge and everyone is given an arrival time so there is no queuing.

Safe as houses! (but not Toad Hall)

Audiences are able to take their own picnics or purchase food or drink available on the day. We enjoyed a few drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and also a few ice creams which were bought around for sale. Anti-bacterial hand gel was readily available, ushers wore face-masks and the toilets at the venue were clean. So, if you’re hesitant to go to a performance in these difficult times, you can be assured that this is one of the safest activities to enjoy.

When and where can I see the show?

The family friendly tours venues around Warwickshire and the West Midlands from 1st – 31st August 2020. You can visit The Attic Theatre website to see a complete list of dates and venues and book tickets. You can contact them by email at boxoffice@theattictheatre.co.uk or you can telephone them on 07748 479507.

Join the conversation!

Have you seen this show? Let us know what you think by using the comments box below or by joining in the conversation on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

(Note: We purchased our own tickets for this performance and have written this review to show how much we enjoyed it. All views and opinions are our own.)

18 thoughts on “Outdoor Theatre Review: Wind in the Willows by Tread the Boards”

  1. Thank you so much for your lovely words, we are very glad you enjoyed it and hope to see little C on the stage some time in the future too.

    The TTB Team

    1. Aww how lovely, as funny as this may sound I have never been to an outside play/performance always been indoor. I would love to actually see how it’s different to being set in door with regards to the use of equipment, props etc :). Great blog post and nice of you to still buy a ticket and support them during these unprecedented times. 🙁

  2. Wow, good on them for getting out there and still doing what they love despite these uncertain times. Really hoping more lovely people like yourself can support this outdoor initiative.

  3. Wow this sounds like a really great show! Love how they’ve incorporated covid into it all and it’s great to see some theatre is back. It sounds lovely to sit with a picnic and watch too!

  4. This show was put on in our local park last year and we really enjoyed it. I’m glad shows are still being performed, despite the current circumstances.

  5. I have never tried outdoor theatre before, but what a fun idea that we can still get our theatre fix whilst social distancing too! xo

  6. This is such a lovely idea. I enjoy going to the theatre but I’ve never been to an outdoor performance. I really hope the ‘c’ word can go back to being Christmas, and businesses can resume properly, including the arts. Thanks for sharing.

  7. How funny, last year I went to see an outdoor version of Wind In The Willows which was amusing, accompanied by a three course meal which was nice. It is great that they had socially distanced seating as well.

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