IT HAS been a while since any of us were able to watch live entertainment, and so it felt like a real treat to enjoy a production of Wind in the Willows in the grounds of an historic mansion.

With Covid-19 restrictions still very much limiting what we can and can’t do, and with the entertainment sector impacted more than any other, theatre companies have had to come up with new ways of putting on performances.

West Berkshire Heritage was quick to respond after the government announced last month that performing arts could take place outdoors from July 11, with a socially distanced audience.

Its production of Wind in the Willows, held in the grounds of Shaw House, was well attended, particularly given the short amount of time in which to organise the event.

Families brought along camping chairs or blankets to sit on the grass, and many enjoyed a picnic outside in the warm evening sunshine.

Thankfully, following some showers earlier in the day, the weather was on our side, and as we settled down to watch the show, the sun was still shining from behind the impressive backdrop of Shaw House.

The event was well-organised, with marshals helping people find a space to sit, ensuring everyone remained socially distanced, and clear one-way directions into and out of the house to reach the toilets and café.

With my three-year-old son accompanying me, we headed inside to buy an ice cream before the show began. At £1.50 a pot, it was cheaper than any theatre venue I’ve ever attended.

My son was fascinated by the trip to the toilets – so much so we had to make it three times – climbing down a twisting old staircase to the depths of the mansion, passing by the remains of an old oven.

The performance began at 5.30pm, early enough to allow young children to attend, and the perfect time to enjoy a picnic tea.

The show grabbed my son’s attention from the outset, as we were taken on an adventure by the charming characters Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad, culminating in a battle to save Toad Hall from the mischievous weasels.

The popular children’s novel by Kenneth Grahame was adapted for the stage by multi-award nominated Immersion Theatre, who brought heaps of energy and enthusiasm to the show.

There was plenty of audience participation to keep the kids engaged, and combined with lots of upbeat singing, dancing and music, it was the perfect entertainment for the whole family.

My son was delighted to run up and down the grassy banks in the grounds during the interval, giving him the chance to stretch his legs ahead of the second act.

He laughed throughout at the silly humour, joined in with the heckles and loved it when the characters ran past the audience during a high-speed chase.

“I really enjoyed Wind in the Willows,” he told me when it finished, “But I didn’t like the end.”

I asked why, intrigued to hear his response. “I just didn’t want it to end,” he answered.

A definite thumbs up.