Review: Wind in the Willows @ Polka Theatre



The weather might be getting colder, but a trip to Wimbledon’s Polka Theatre for Wind in the Willows will leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

By Pete Grant

The weather might be getting colder by the day, but a trip to Wimbledon’s Polka Theatre for Wind in the Willows will leave you and your children with a warm and fuzzy feeling to take into the festive period.

Polka is one of very few theatres producing a full programme exclusively for children and has been entertaining youngsters for 30 years.

Toby Hulse’s delightful interpretation of Kenneth Grahame’s classic children’s is their flagship winter show, and runs until 16th February.

The play charts a year down at the riverbank, and follows the adventures of some of literature’s most-loved characters in a story that still has much relevance today.

Opening at the dawn of spring, Rattty and Mole shake off the icicles of winter to take a boat ride to see Mr Toad, the spoilt aristocrat with a penchant for boy’s toys.

As the year progresses, Toad’s selfish stubbornness gets him into all sorts of trouble, including a hilarious and ingeniously staged police chase in his new motor car.

Despite the best efforts of his chums, Toad’s fall from grace provides a strong lesson about the importance of friendship, the security of home and the pitfalls of over-ambition.

Though not forced on the audience like medicine, the theme of security and the importance of friendship in an ever-changing world are put across with grace and poignancy.

Undoubtedly the star of the show, Toad, played to camp perfection by Robert Saunders, provides an injection of energy and slapstick to proceedings, with his panto-esque jaunts into the audience triggering excited laughter and screaming from delighted children.

The Polka has excelled itself in the staging of Wind in the Willows. Beautifully modelled props really bring the riverbank to life, and Toad’s car is a work of art.

Likewise, the lighting subtly marks the changing of the seasons and creates an immersive environment where children can lose themselves.

The language, storyline and pacing are all well-balanced, and considerable thought has evidently gone in to ensuring that every child can take something special from the show.

Those of infant school age will have a hoot watching Toad prance around the stage dressed as a washerwoman, yet older primary children will pick up on the remarkable depth of important themes explored here.

Good children’s theatre is hard to come by, and the Polka simply doesn’t do second-rate productions.

A registered charity, Polka also performs much charitable work in Merton and beyond, and Director Jonathan Lloyd is passionate about providing the best possible quality theatre for enquiring young minds.

He said: “For me, this has been a project I have been working on for nearly a year, so it’s a wonderful feeling to see what began as just a collection of ideas, a series of conversations, now coming to life on Polka’s stage.

“The team working on this show are so talented and good at what they do. So much care, thought and hard work has gone into every element of the production.

“It makes me really proud as I’m also the Artistic Director here at Polka Theatre and that’s what we’re about – creating world-class theatre for children, and everyone working on The Wind in the Willows is focused on that aim.”

For tickets, or information about school group bookings, call Polka on 020 8543 4888 or visit

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