Wind In The Willows preview - Ian Spiby

Three years ago, when Kate and Richard asked me to direct Wind in the Willows for a summer tour in 2020, I was delighted because Wind in the Willows had always been one of my favourite books. I love the way that Kenneth Graham uses inflated language for comic effect and I could quote some of it by heart.

“When Toad found himself immured in a dank and noisome dungeon …he flung himself at full length on the floor and abandoned himself to dark despair … he refused his meals and even intermediate light refreshments”.


Well of course, the 2020 summer tour never happened although we did make some short films directed (in all but name) by the brilliant Martin Borley-Cox. I had never directed a film before and my role was just to say “Action” and “Cut” at the beginning and end of every take. Even then I got that wrong, saying “Cut” when I should have said “Action” – which naturally caused great hilarity among the cast and crew. (I’m still licking my wounds to this day!”

But now, rehearsals are well under way for the summer tour which will take place THIS year, and I’m doing what I do best: directing theatre. And my job is being made easier by the fact that I have a cast of highly experienced actors who just take direction like a dream. I’ve only got to say, “Could you just do, er…” and they reply immediately, “Oh yes, I know what you mean”. And then they do it – perfectly. Mind-readers, all of them.

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Another plus is that we have the highly experienced Music Director. Rod Iliffe, who together with his wife Kendal Kirkland has written and recorded the music specially for this production. Rod came over during a recent rehearsal to coach everyone and we all agreed how enchanting the music is. There’s a lively production number, “Duck’s Ditty” and a haunting carol, “Villager’s all this frosty tide”, not to mention the Chief Weasel’s rude song with it’s chorus of “Bum, Bum, Bum, Bum” (the kids will love that one).

Another delightful thing, (and you only get this with experienced and “relaxed” actors) is that they feel free to make suggestions which often help me to solve tricky problems of staging. It’s invidious to pick one example out because so many people have contributed in different ways but Mo Shapiro gave me a suggestion about the “car-crash” scene which I’d been puzzling about for weeks. With no lighting effects and no stage machinery (because it’s an open air production) it could so easily have failed miserably but Mo’s input sparked off ideas which work really well theatrically.

Let me know if you agree when you come to see the show!

So all in all things are looking set for a very good production. All we have to hope for now is nice weather.

Wind In The Willow tours across the midlands this summer - for a full list of tour dates click here, or click here to book now!