CW Blog Reimagining Classics: The Wind in the Willows

Box Tale Soup is a dynamic theatre company creating spirited shows with puppets, music and physical theatre. They have thrilled audiences all around the UK and abroad with their award winning productions. This February the company is touring the classic tale of The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame. In preparation for the show we had a Q&A with the artistic director and also founder of the company, Noel Byrne.

  • This play is showing at Canada Water Theatre February 13-14, 1 and 3pm.
  • Suitable for children 4+
  • £7 / £24 family ticket  BOOK NOW

“..incredible chemistry.. a beautiful tale..”
Creative Reviews UK

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1. How did you strike a balance between creative freedom and invention, and honouring the classical storyline?

We’ve created numerous adaptations now, and in each case we try to remain as true as possible to the source material, and to the authorial voice. However, when we start work on a show, we begin by creating a list of ideas, no matter how wild and ridiculous, without worrying about any of the restrictions that the final piece will face. Somewhere between the two, we end up with what we hope is the perfect balance!

2. What do you believe captivates readers and audiences most about this story?

Obviously there’s a lot of fun with Mr. Toad, and we’re carried along on all his crazy adventures, but there’s also some beautiful writing and a lot of charming, heart-warming moments. We’ve tried to keep parts of the novel which often get cut in favour of focusing on Toad, so there’s the magic of ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’, and ‘Wayfarers All’. Kenneth Grahame achieves that unusual quality in The Wind in the Willows, where there is truly something to be recognised and enjoyed by all ages, from the very young to the very old.

3. For someone who has never read the novel how would you describe the story of the show?

It’s a tale about four friends who also happen to be animals, a Water Rat, a Mole, a Badger and a Toad. The story follows their various adventures through the seasons, from Ratty and Mole’s first meeting, Toad’s escape from prison, to their final confrontation with the creatures of the Wild Wood.

“Puppets allow you to do things onstage that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, and in this show we use them to play with scale, and present a very expressive 5 foot Mr. Toad!”

4. Besides the talking animals, in the piece what contributes to the magic on stage?

Box Tale Soup has worked with puppetry from the company’s very beginning, and it’s something that we still find gives a magical quality to a performance. Puppets allow you to do things onstage that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, and in this show we use them to play with scale, and present a very expressive 5 foot Mr. Toad! We also work very hard on the adaptation, making sure we keep as much of Grahame’s beautiful language as we can, and that in itself provides a certain magic.

5. What challenges and advantages accompany reimagining a story?

You never want to do it a disservice. Before we take on an adaptation we ask ourselves whether we think we can truly tell the story in an effective and entertaining way with the resources available to us, and there are projects that we have turned down for the time being for that reason. If you’re asking someone to come and watch a production based on a piece that is well-known and well loved, then you have to be sure both to treat the material with respect and to provide something special in the way the story is told. Of course, the advantage to working with this kind of story is that it is already well-known and well loved, which can help to provide an audience, and if they feel you have treated the source material well, the audiences can be very enthusiastic and supportive.

6. Did you feel any pressing responsibilities to your viewers who are fans of the novel?

Whatever we’re adapting, we’re always concerned that the resulting show should be enjoyable for fans of the original work. That’s why we feel it’s important not just to consider the story, but also the voice of the author, the way in which the story is told. We choose the pieces to adapt because we have enjoyed them and are fans ourselves, but it’s always nerve-wracking to find out what people think of our version of the story. So far though, we’ve had fantastic reactions, and it’s still incredibly rewarding to have someone approach us after a show and say, “This is my favourite book… and I absolutely loved your performance!”.

Come experience this entertaining show for yourself, and your family!

Canada Water Theatre  February  13-14 at 1 and 3pm. 

Suitable for ages 4+

Tickets: £7 or  £24 family ticket  Book Now

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