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Great stuff! Let's hear it for Toad's long johns

Wind in the Willows, Albany Theatre, Earlsdon, until Jan 6.

There's always a danger in saving the best bits till last when children are your audience that you’ll lose them on the way.

This production doesn’t stray that far but it is certainly a show of two halves. In the first part there is simply too much preamble and not enough action.

Thankfully in Ratty and Mole ( Craig Rogers and Paul Nolan) it has a strong pairing to drive the narrative.

Their knockabout cricket scene - more panto than wistful riverbank - was welcome light relief and augured well as an opener for the second half.

Their warm friendship together with a stoic but stern Badger (Alex Lacey) and the irrepressible Toad (Dean Leon Finlan), the boy-racer toff who won’t be curbed, works well.

They are supported by a cast of local rodents, marshalled by Chief Weasel (Adaya Henry), whose singing and scampering in the auditorium keeps the audience on its toes.

When the field mice contingent burst into song at the end of the first session it was as if the Christmas lights have been turned on in the Wild Wood.

As a paid up member of the Toad fan club, I would have liked to see the braggart centre stage from the start. Bellowing out his song of praise to himself.

And the highlights of his life and crimes could have been brought in a lot sooner ,without losing the plot, with some judicious cropping.

But credit where it’s due, a lot of hard work has gone into this production and there are some masterstrokes.

Toad’s baggy green long johns deserve an ovation on their own during the retrobate’s famous escape from jail after bribing the washer woman out of her clothes, and his manic driving scenes were evoked artfully.

This of course is a grandparent’s view. My two charges at aged four and six had very different opinions: the younger was so excited he couldn’t sit down throughout and loved every minute.

His older brother, was succinct: “Too much talking”.

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