I was taken to see productions of this play every Christmas by my parents as a child.

It is the original play written by A A Milne. The story was taken from Kenneth Grahame’s book The Wind in the Willows  and was written with Grahame’s approval and input and far surpasses any productions I have seen since.

In no other production do you have ‘a different kind of rabbit’, making an appearance. Nor do you ever have Ratty cleaning the barrel of his gun with the end of his tail. A practice he continued to do through all the productions I saw – and which worried me considerably.

I am lucky to have two siblings, both older than I am and at various times I have really appreciated having them about. My brother, back in the 1970’s once recorded a production from Radio 4 – pressing the button on the tape recorder in the kitchen at just the right moment, and I have since had that audio tape (look that up if you don’t know what that is) converted onto a CD – and I treasure it. The music and the production always takes me back to the theatre; to sitting as close as I could to the barrier in front of me, sitting on the edge of my seat, just gazing at the curtains, just waiting for that sublime music to start, with Marigold, who is speaking on the telephone. At least she has the trumpet of one daffodil to her ear, and another to her mouth…

We were lucky. The production that was recorded by the BBC, was of one of the original shows that I saw – important because Richard Goolden always played the part of Mole, and his voice is part of why my recording is so important.

Back in 1971 Mum (I am sure it would have been she), encouraged me to write to Richard Goolden/Moley after seeing one of the productions and I am now the proud owner of a Molly Brett postcard, with a note inscribed on the back. The front, in Molly Brett’s usual style, shows a number of small animals enjoying a bonfire: a badger, several rabbits, three hedgehogs, a bat and squirrel… His comment, written in green biro reads ‘Thank you so much for your nice letter. It was kind of you to write. Wishing you a very Happy 1972, with love from ‘Mole’, Richard Goolden’ and there is a small note, just scribbled up the side…‘Sorry there isn’t a mole on the card!!’

There will always be ‘other’ Toad of Toad Hall productions, just as there are different sorts of rabbits in the world. Alan Bennett for one has done a more recent production, which I have never seen. I don’t intend to do so either – after all it will not be able to measure up to the original. It is all very well for those who don’t know, but another for those of us who do. There has also been an opera style production that Mum, Dad and I saw a few years ago, produced the Internet says, by Will Tuckett – I thought I could get away with that, as it was Dad thought, going to be similar to an opera. That production has disappeared into my past without any real memory of it – apart from the fact that some one interesting was the narrator, but sadly who that was has also disappeared from my mind. It made little impression and certainly didn’t have anything to do with the theatre productions of Toad of Toad Hall that I know.

I believe that Samuel French still publish a script of the original play – and I sometimes still look at the modern reproduction I once found through work. I also have an old one too – which I keep tucked away safely in a special folder in my bookcase.

Recently I have been wandering around the Internet, as one does, and came across this U-tube entry – if that is the correct word. THIS is Toad of Toad Hall – there really is no other…

For those who don’t know – if you click on the arrow in the centre of the picture below, you will find yourself listening to Marigold on the telephone, she has just got through to the exchange…

Thank you Peter – I doubt you know how much pleasure that recording you made so many years ago has given me…

 

 

 

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