The Wind In The Willows


Music by Denis King - Book and lyrics by Willis Hall, based on the book by Kenneth Grahame

Publisher:Samuel French Ltd

The first full stage adaptation of Grahame’s bucolic classic, the magical world of The River Bank brought vividly to life.

Kings Comment


First performed at Plymouth Theatre Royal in association with Duncan C. Weldon for Triumph Apollo Productions Ltd, 22 November, 1984. Opened Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London January 1985.

Director: Roger Redfarn
Design: Finlay James
Choreography: Michele Hardy
Lighting: Andrew A. Gardner
Orchestrations: Denis King
Musical Director: Barry Westcott

CAST (4 Principal M + 4M, 2W, 6-10 chorus)

Patrick Cargill, Melvyn Hayes, Donald Hewlett, Terry Scott, Peter Wiggins, Malcolm Wood, Paul Ryan, Richard Tolan, Dee Robillard, Allan Stirland, Michael Boothe, Anthony Collin, David Dandridge, Deborah Goodman, Judith Street, Robert Aldous, Fiona Alexander, Wenda Holland, Christopher Hood, Claudia Lyster



On a rare trip not to Birmingham (see WORZEL GUMMIDGE, BASHVILLE, TREASURE ISLAND), we found ourselves down in Plymouth for the opening of WIND IN THE WILLOWS, Willis Hall and Den’s musical adaptation of the Kenneth Grahame book I never read. We’d paid extra for a sea view on The Hoe, the seafront area (so we could see if the rain looked like stopping anytime this century) and while Den went off to a production meeting I grabbed my coat and hat and scuba gear and headed out to the shops, because the bad thing about having musicals opening right and left is opening night presents. How it works is I take charge of it all and do everything and about twenty minutes before curtain Den finds a pen that works and signs everything from him. It’s a fairly foolproof method, unless of course I’m in a bad mood from having to do it all, or Den’s counted wrong and we end up with pissed-off assistant stage managers or hurting the lighting designer’s feelings.

Taking a break, one especially wet afternoon, from choosing perfect opening night gifts for directors and designers and choreographers and collaborators and musical directors and anyone who looked like they needed one (prop girls, for the record, speaking as a former one, enjoy flowers, jewelry, or champagne, or all three, accompanied by thoughtful handwritten notes of undying gratitide, and which P.S. also go down well with composers' wives) plus buying cases of wine for the band (to have after) and twelve hundred perfect cards for Denis to put his name to after I've come up with something cute and personal and show-related like "To 'Mole-y'. Thanks for everything. I'll be 'C-ing' you tonight so B-sharp!" and other stuff to make you gag--I thought I'd go umbrella-shopping and on the way, saw this pier.

Long, stone, wet, nothing on it except curled rope and trash cans being blown around and a stone arch thing midway down, and I thought, do I have the energy for this, but traipsed out anyhow, trying to decide if this is what they call bracing or simply dangerous--and, from this pier, I see four or five stone steps leading down to the water. So I stood there a bit, looking down at the water, the waves slapping and bouncing, and it’s all grey and cold and menacing and I think, okay, done the pier, and turned to go, and I then notice the carving in the stone I’d been standing on:

“Mayflower” it says, and about three seconds later it registers. Oh my God! The Mayflower! I now see a small plaque that says “From this spot, in 1620..” and burst into tears, standing there, all alone, on a cold wet pier in Plymouth, England looking out to sea, being lashed by wind and rain, hair flying (Meryl Streep can play me in the movie) and all of a sudden, I realized what day it was:

Thanksgiving Day! The last Thursday in November.

Well. I couldn’t move, from this pier, from whence my forefathers left, all those years ago, to sail to Massachusetts to survive their first winter in a new and hostile land and go on to invent pumpkin pie and maple mousse and become real gosh darn Americans. I was suddenly so proud of them. And me, for not falling in.

Eventually I tore myself away (soon after bronchitis set in) and raced over to the Theatre Royal to tell Den, who was up to his armpits in weasel and stoat harmonies, and I sobbed again telling everyone in the orchestra pit. In fact, I’m slightly moved writing about it even now.

I recently read in Yankee Magazine which I stole from someone’s bathroom in Vermont that “mayflower” is another name for hawthorn, and was chosen by the Pilgrims as the name for their vessel because the mayflower is a traditional symbol of hope (as in hope the weather’s better over there) and Hampstead Heath, in May, is dotted with these white-with-a-tint-of-pink hawthorn trees, acre after acre of what looks like lace cut-work, and sometimes, as I walk along, this hot round yellow thing appears in the sky and the whole place is flooded with light and smells so warm and fresh and sweet, that I wonder what in hell the Pilgrims were thinking about, ever wanting to leave this place.  Astrid King

Fact of the Day
Denis, his brother Tony, and Ronnie Corbett, once played 54 holes of golf in one day up in Caister near Gt. Yarmouth and is still looking for his ball.
Listening Post
A Joyous Time Of The Year