Review: In the Willows at York Theatre Royal

Leaping lilypads! We’ve found the perfect Easter entertainment for older kids: it’s Wind in the Willows, but not as you know it. Billed as an all-singing, all-rapping explosive new musical based on the Kenneth Graham classic, we weren’t sure what to expect from In the Willows, or indeed which of our children to take along. Although the age recommendation is 6+, we left our younger ones and home and took the 9-year-old and his friend instead. It turned out to be the right choice: they loved it.

The gentle rural setting of the original tale has been swapped for a gritty inner-city school, The Willows, where the classmates struggle with accepting each other, accepting their past and working out what to do with their future. Yep, it’s definitely deeper than the tales of the riverbank we know of old. Mole is new to the school and trying to come to terms with a difficult upbringing; hilarious, troublemaking Toad is all about the easy (‘macaroni-cheesy, cuppa-teasy’) life and Ratty doesn’t believe she’s clever enough to go to university. Under the guidance of Badger, a wise and kind teacher, they each find their way to contentment at the end of a journey woven together by catchy songs and impressive rap and cracking choreography. The cast is exceptionally talented cast (we doff our baseball cap to the wonderful Toad and his rhyming skills in particular) and the choreography excellent. It’s an energetic, uplifting and inspiring show that’s bang up to date. 

Funny, sassy and high octane, In the Willows, entertained the two boys from start to finish; in fact, mine gave it 10 out of 10. It was full marks from my friend and me, too: we sobbed at the characters’ back stories and laughed our heads off at Toad’s antics. We both agreed that it should be compulsory viewing in schools up and down the land. But until then, catch it at York Theatre Royal while you can. 

In the Willows runs at York Theatre Royal until Saturday 20th April 2019 (no performance Good Friday) – Visit the York Theatre Royal website for details and to book

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