Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame presented by the Library Theatre Company at The Lowry

By Lee Isherwood | November 25th '11

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Adapted for the stage by Alan Bennett
With music and additional lyrics by Jeremy Sams

Presented by the Library Theatre Company at The Lowry, Salford
Directed by Chris Honer
Friday 2 December 2011 – Saturday 14 January 2012

Alan Bennett’s acclaimed adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s timeless family favourite The Wind in the Willows is this year’s Christmas production from Manchester’s Library Theatre Company at The Quays Theatre at The Lowry in Salford. The production, which runs between Friday 2 December 2011 – Saturday 14 January 2012, will be directed by Chris Honer, the Library Theatre Company’s Artistic Director. The production, which is ideal for children aged six upwards, is sponsored by Manchester Airport.

The tales of Ratty, Mole, Badger and the incorrigible, preposterous Toad have been delighting people of all ages for generations. When Mole abandons his spring-cleaning for the enchanting world of the river-bank, so begins an adventure that leads to magnificent Toad Hall, to the open road (poop poop!), to the perilous WildWood – and finally to battle!

First performed at the Royal National Theatre in December 1990, Alan Bennett’s version of Kenneth Grahame’s classic tale is true to the original yet written with distinctive Bennett flair and humour. The exploits of our four much-loved friends are woven with clever songs and witty dialogue – brilliant festive fun for the whole family.

A pair of Library Theatre Company regulars – Christopher Wright and Paul Barnhill, are taking the roles of Rat and Toad respectively. Christopher, who is making his 12th appearance with the Library, was most recently with the company for Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, its first production at The Lowry, in September 2010, and has worked recently with the Royal Shakespeare Company and at the Royal National Theatre. Paul, who achieved notoriety when he played racist villain Josh Carter in Brookside, also appeared in Mike Leigh’s film Topsy-Turvy and was in Chris Honer’s Library Theatre Company production of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House earlier this year.

Playing Badger is Robert Calvert, who is making his first appearance with the Library Theatre Company since 1996, when he featured in Chris Honer’s production of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In the interim he has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company and at the Royal National Theatre, as well as in UK tours of productions including London Assurance with the Watermill Theatre in Newbury, and Waiting For Godot with Compass Theatre. Manchester School of Theatre at Manchester Metropolitan University graduate Sophie Gajewicz, seen on the Manchester stage in the Royal Exchange Theatre’s production of Pygmalion in 2010, takes on the role of Mole.

Welsh actor Alun Saunders, most recently seen in Animal Farm at the Clwyd Theatr Cymru in Mold in north Wales, plays two roles, the Chief Weasel and the Train Driver; Northern Broadsides regular Jason Furnival is Albert and the Magistrate; Tarek Merchant, last seen with the Library Theatre Company in The Good Soul of Szechuan in 2009, plays Fox, Stoat, and Rupert – he is also the Musical Director in this production of The Wind in the Willows, a role he has filled in a number West End productions including Chess.

Another Manchester School of Theatre at Manchester Metropolitan University graduate Ruth Westley, seen in the Library Theatre Company’s productions of two Tom Stoppard plays – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in February 2007, and Rock ‘n’ Roll two years later – plays the Goaler’s Daughter and Weasel Norma; and finally Kate Feldschreiber, who as well as appearing in a number of West End productions, also sings backing vocals on trip-hop and jazz singer Julia Johnson’s debut album I Am Not the Night, plays three roles – the Bargewoman, Otter, and Monica.

All the main cast above are taking part in the Library Theatre Company’s innovative ‘adopt-an-actor’ scheme, sponsored by World Duty Free, in which the actors are ‘adopted’ by a local primary school or community group. The actors and groups or schools are in weekly contact during the rehearsal period and then get to meet after a performance during the run at The Lowry.

In addition, two teams of four Performing Arts students from Salford University will be playing assorted rabbits, weasels, and stoats in the production.

“We are delighted to be able to offer the students the chance to perform in The Wind in the Willows,” says Chris Honer. “The Library Theatre Company is keen to support training in the region, and there can be no better way to introduce acting students to the requirements of working in a professional theatre than rehearsing and then performing a seven-week run of a demanding Christmas show.”

The Salford University actors are Rosie O’Sullivan (from the Wirral), Helena Rochester (Sheffield), Rose Thea Jordan (Altrincham), Rachel McMurray (who was born in Switzerland), Stephanie Hutchinson (Leeds), Ashleigh Jade Warrington (Newton Heath, Manchester), Jonathan Booth (Stockport), and Dale Gerrard (Sale), a former member of the Library Theatre Company’s norfox Young People’s Theatre Company, who appeared in the norfox production of Fugee by Abi Morgan in April 2009.

Venue: The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, Salford M50 3AZ. Box office: 0843 208 6010.
Web: www.thelowry.com

Performances: Friday 2 December 2011 – Saturday 14 January 2012. Please see attached flyer for full performance schedule and information on the access (British Sign-Language, Audio-Described, Captioned, and special workshop day) performances.

Tickets: Adults £13.50-£18; children £9.50; concessions £12.50-£17. Family tickets (two adults, two children) £44-£53. Previews (Fri 2/Sat 3 December) adults £13.50, children £8.50.

Pre-show talk with director Chris Honer Saturday 14 January 2012 at 1.30pm.
Box office: www.librarytheatre.com or 0843 208 6010.