Review: The Willows At New Wimbledon Theatre

This innovative piece of theatre will delight children and adults alike

Clive Rowe

Written and directed by Poppy Burton-Morgan, this is the most innovative piece of theatre that I’ve seen in a long time. In a time when musicals based on known stories tend to be rather contrived and predictable, this is an original interpretation with a very clever, witty script and fresh new music where each song has an important message.


I have to admit, I’d gone along expecting to see my favourite pantomime dame, the wonderful Clive Rowe, dressed as a badger but when the show opened with a stage full of young people in modern dress with no animals in sight, I wondered what had been done to Kenneth Grahame’s classic tale.


Then I heard the delightful laughter of the young lad seated in front of me at the antics of the rapping Harry Jardine, dressed head to toe in bright green and the light in my brain switched on – it was obvious, Toad! All the characters from the riverbank were there, just in 2019.


Yet, to say it is a 21st century interpretation of Wind in the Willows somehow doesn’t do it justice. It is a stand-alone story of a group of young people and the issues and pressures they face in our modern society. That said, if you have read Kenneth Grahame’s book, you will detect the parallels throughout the show.


We meet the shy and retiring Mole (Victoria Boyce) on her first day at The Willows school where Clive Rowe’s Mr. Badger, their teacher, encourages Rattie and Otter (played by Zara Macintosh and Chris Fonseca respectively) to befriend her since she is bullied by the other kids and they take her to the Riverbank, a club where they all hang out.


However, Mole has a secret, known only to Chief Weasel (Bradley Charles) whom she knew in the past and, when rich kid Toad is imprisoned for joyriding, he uses this fact to blackmail Mole so that his gang can squat in the now empty Toad Hall…


The entire show is signed, not only by the very enthusiastic Narrator, but also by several members of the talented cast. The set is simple but effective as is the lighting and the costumes are bright and colourful, each having a quirky connection to the animal name of the character. The music is catchy and the choreography is energetic to say the least; I was personally delighted to see that some tap dancing had been included with all the back-flipping! 


As I said earlier, seeing the reaction of children to a show such as this proves that this is what theatre and the future of it, is all about. Well done to everyone involved.

By Anne Horsburgh

May 12, 2019