THE HAYMARKET welcomes a whole host of woodland creatures for their latest performance by Basingstoke Amateur Operatic Society (BAOS).

The latest musical venture from the society is ‘The Wind in The Willows’, which follows the story of Mole, Rat, Badger and Mr Toad and their ongoing conflict with the ‘Wild Wooders’.

Adapted to theatre from the 1908 original story by novelist Kenneth Grahame. The musical explores the journey of friendship, trust and teamwork.

In the opening number ‘Spring’ we are introduced to those that inhabit the riverbank in a bright awakening from their hibernation. A chorus of otters, squirrels, mice, hedgehogs and rabbits all come together to celebrate the beauty of spring and a new year.

We meet Mole (Hannah Jenkins), who is incredibly humble and sees the best in everything and everyone. Although timid she can still show her bravery. Jenkins showed a vulnerability and naivety in her singing whilst maintaining powerful vocals.

Upon a journey to the river she comes across a companionable Rat (Josh Vaatstra) who invites her across the river on his boat. ‘Messing About in a Boat’ is a heartwarming introduction to their blossoming friendship. Rat is honest, wonderfully likeable and felt like a friend. Vaatstra portrays charismatic smooth vocals which pair perfectly with Rat’s personality.

We learn of a teen Otter called Portia (Emily Fagg) who seems to always be drifting and rebelling against her mothers wishes. Her lack of care and poor judgement soon leads to trouble with the ‘Wild Wooders'.

The exuberant, larger-than-life Toad (Ryan Stevens) leaps and bounds across the stage in a colourful display of high energy drama in ‘Speed is of the Essence (Reprise)’. A huge character role, his singing and performance was highly entertaining. He is enthusiastic and passionate about trying the latest ‘new thing’, despite obstacles that stand in his way - he seems to ‘leap’ right over them, taking no notice of the mess that is left behind.

The show is full of interesting character songs, each a little glimpse into the lives of the animals. A chorus of swallows sings a beautiful introduction to the seasons changing in ‘One Swallow Does Not A Swallow Make’. A family of hedgehogs sings a comical yet sweet song about their struggles to cross a road in ‘The Hedgehogs Nightmare’.

We meet the brilliantly wicked villain Chief Weasel (Victoria Howard-Andrews) and her group of evil stoats, weasels and foxes - the ‘Wild Wooders’. Her plan to storm and take over Toad Hall poses a threat and challenge to Mr Toad and his friends. Howard-Andrews’ powerhouse vocals equal her intimidating and scheming personality.

Badger (Martin Sampson) is a strong-willed stoic voice of reason for Mole, Rat and Toad. He helps his friends overcome challenges and proves them with guidance and good advice.

A strong theme in the show is friendship and alliance. ‘A Friend is Still a Friend’ shows us that even if a friend makes a wrong decision, they should always be given the opportunity for reconciliation as they are still a friend.

The band created a superb musical journey as the narrative played out. Simon Eastwood, the Musical Director, conducted a talented orchestra that created a new atmosphere in parallel with the story.

The set design, props and costumes were very clever, well thought-out and executed. Lighting and use of flying in props and scenery added an extra layer of interest. Overall an impressive use of lighting, costume and props.

The Wind in The Willows is a thoroughly enjoyable trip to the theatre. Director Adam Bayjou has succeeded in creating a colourfully immersive world that allows the audience to experience a snapshot of life on the riverbank and in the wild woods, and be welcomed into Mole, Badger and Mr Toad’s homes. BAOS have succeeded in performing yet another vibrant, entertaining and an all round fun experience.

The show is at the Haymarket from September 23-25 at 7.30pm, with a matinee performance at 2.30pm on Saturday. Tickets are available on the door or from