Our vibrant youth theatre, QYouth is set to stage a world premiere of the family favourite The Wind in the Willows on 8 & 9 July and you’re all invited!

The Wind in the Willows is Kenneth Grahame’s most famous and well-loved work. This classic children’s novel, first published in 1908, has since been adapted widely for stage and screen. We’re excited to be bringing you a brand new musical version which has been adapted by James Watson and Andrew Linham.

James Watson reveals more about the show, the author and how he has adapted this family favourite.

What’s the story about?

‘Following the inquisitive Mole in the search for a new home above ground, we stumble across the loveable yet reckless Toad of Toad Hall. Toad is causing chaos, distracted by one mad-cap idea after another – much to the frustration of the rest of the riverbank. Meanwhile, deep in the heart of the Wild Wood, the Weasels have their eyes set on Toad Hall and riverbank domination. With the help of new friends Ratty and Mr Badger, Mole tries to save Toad from himself (and the Weasels), before it is too late.’

What was the author’s inspiration behind The Wind in the Willows?

Kenneth Grahame (born in Edinburgh, 8 March 1859) spent most of his childhood living with his grandmother in Cookham Dean, Berkshire, where he was introduced to the riverside and boating by his uncle. Grahame married Elspeth Thomson in 1899; they had only one child, a boy named Alastair (whose nickname was “Mouse”) born blind in one eye and plagued by health problems throughout his life. Grahame would tell him bedtime stories about a toad, and when Grahame holidayed alone he would write further tales of Toad, Mole, Ratty and Badger in letters to Alastair.’

‘Alistair is noted to have been the inspiration for Mr. Toad’s wayward mischievousness and boastfulness: a family friend noted that “Alastair’s own tendency to exult in his exploits was gently satirized in Mr. Toad”. Colonel Francis Cecil Ricardo CVO CBE (1852–1924), the first owner of a car in Cookham in Berkshire where Grahame wrote the books, is also thought to have been an influence.’

‘In 1908, Grahame took early retirement from his position as secretary of the Bank of England. He moved back to Berkshire and spent his time by the River Thames doing much as the characters in his book do – “simply messing about in boats” – and expanding the bedtime stories he had earlier told his son into a manuscript for the book.’

How have you re-interpreted this classic tale for the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch?

‘The novel is notable for its mix of mysticism, adventure, morality and camaraderie. In adapting this treasured story we were keen to maintain the themes of place and identity, friendship and belonging. Originally set in an idyllic Edwardian England, creating a sense of charm and antiquity, we wanted to keep the essence of Grahame’s story and characters, but equally re-interpret the adventure to a more recent and relatable period of time. The alternating rhythm between slow moving, tranquil countryside and high speed adventure made for fascinating musical interpretation.’

So buckle up for a spin along the riverbank quite unlike any other… but watch out for those Weasels!

The Wind in the Willows will be performed at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch by over 120 young performers aged 7 – 18. It marks the 25th anniversary of the theatre’s dynamic youth theatre.

Saturday 8 July | 7pm

Sunday 9 July | 2pm & 7pm

Tickets are £14 (£8 concs) and can be purchased by calling the Box Office on 01708 443333, in person at the theatre or online here: http://www.queens-theatre.co.uk/whats-on/show/the-wind-in-the-willows/

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