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Mr Toad - Wise Owl Theatre Review

Reviewed by Mark Johnson at Theatre Royal Nottingham
Tickets were gifted in return for an honest review.

The adventurous story of Mr Toad and his pals Badger, Rat and Mole is remixed in Wise Owl Theatre’s fun production of Mr Toad.

Alex Clifford as Mr Toad. Photo by Tom Wren.

The show is based on Kenneth Grahame’s classic story The Wind in the Willows and is told as a show within a show - though I’m not quite sure this premise really works. What does work however is the brilliant work of the 3 cast members who bring to life this wonderful tale with the help of excellent puppets designed by Matthew Forbes.

We meet Mr. Toad as he is packing up to leave Toad Hall after his father has croaked it, he’s told by Badger he is not worthy of taking over from his father. Down on his luck Toad finds over things to distract him, such as the horse and cart he is left in his father’s will.

Alex Clifford impressed as Toad, he handles the puppet brilliantly and you are swept along by his charm even when the character isn’t always making the best decisions. The voice work in particular is engaging making the audience root for the role.

Jack Sanders is wonderfully silly as Badger and a number of other roles. The movement or simply the looks are bright and light. He relishes in every role, particularly as the ghostly statue of Toad’s father or as the horse that drives the cart in the first act. He also has a great time as the Judge speaking directly to the audience aka the jury. 

Florrie Stockbridge as Mole. Photo by Tom Wren.

Florrie Stockbridge is a great as Rat but undoubtedly the show stealer is the adorable Mole puppet. Every child (and adult) will want one! Stockbridge has the best vocals in the cast and the clearest diction meaning you get to hear every word. Like Sanders and Clifford she excels in the delivery particularly in the larger-than-life moments. Her villainous Vin Weasel lands somewhere like Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous and a pantomime villain whilst her washerwoman Lily has a great number with some fun movements to get everyone involved in. It’s an all round fabulous performance by Stockbridge.

The piece does struggle a little in the first act to keep the attention of the audience, it lacks in that audience interaction and some of the story beats do linger a little longer. Once the pace does pick up it does get more engaging and the second act is the stronger of the two with more moments for that interaction and the story is paced better. The jokes are witty and funny but often will be lost on the younger ones.

The staging is cleverly imagined, it feels quite cartoon-like meaning for a creative world of play for the cast to bring the tale to life. The lighting is effective in adding texture and feeling to moments, especially the ones with more jeopardy like in the Wild Woods. 

There is plenty to enjoy in these magnificent characters, the superb puppetry and the fantastic performances. It may not keep the attention of all in the audiences but those who it does enchant will leave the theatre having been given a piece with friendship at the centre brought to life with these classic characters. 

Florrie Stockbridge, Alex Clifford and  Jack Sanders. Photo by Tom Wren

The real let down here is the lack of Mole related souvenirs for taking home but in seriousness Wise Owl showcase their great eye for family theatre. Like any family it might not be perfect but spending time here you’ll leave having had a great time. 

Mr Toad plays at Theatre Royal Winchester from Friday 26th until Sunday 28th July 2024, Theatre Clwyd in Mold (Wales) on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th August and Buxton Opera House on Friday 30th and Saturday 31st August. Find out more details and booking information at

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