THE Chesil Theatre’s latest offering, The Wind in the Willows, adapted by Alan Bennett, was everything we’ve come to expect from Kenneth Grahame’s classic tale. With lashings of Bennett’s dry wit and one-liners, such as ‘You can’t frogmarch me, I’m a toad’ we knew from the start there’d be plenty of laughs (and a few groans).

This open-air production was brought lovingly to life by director, Jo Ashwell, who wrote in her bio that reading The Wind in the Willows was one of her earliest childhood memories and she could remember every drawing vividly.

Perhaps the drawings were where she got her inspiration because the production was certainly vibrant and vivid.

From the brightly painted set designed by Duncan Wilson to the flamboyant and colourful costumes designed by Llyn Parker, it was a feast for the eyes.

The production bounded along with vivacity and pace, primarily driven by Toad, played exuberantly by Tez Cook whose energy never faltered.

This provided a lovely contrast to Albert, the downtrodden depressed horse, played convincingly by Jim Glaister. The relationship between these two characters gave rise to much of the play's comedy. The friendship between Ratty (Steve Clark) and Mole (Andrew Jenks) felt genuine and warm opposite the curmudgeonly Badger, wonderfully played by Peter Andrews. The rest of the cast supported the main protagonists with delightful charm and generosity and each had their moment to shine. Notable cameos were Sam Burridge’s portrayal of Otter/Train Driver and Malcolm Brown and Gary Nicholson as the dastardly duo of weasels.

The cast included two teams of children who performed on alternate nights. They clearly looked like they were enjoying themselves and were very much part of the action.

All in all this was a thoroughly entertaining family production staged in the beautiful gardens of Wolvesey Palace with perfect weather to boot.

By Katherine Lewis