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July 20th, 2019

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Second paragraph of third chapter:
'Couldn't you ask him here for dinner or something?' said the Mole.
Way way back in 1976, we were on a family trip to London and as a treat went to see A.A. Milne's stage version of Toad of Toad Hall, starring

  • Richard Goolden as Mole - his 17th year in the part, aged 81! His last ever acting role was Zaphod Beeblebrox IV in The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio series in 1980,

  • John Warner as Water Rat,

  • David King as Badger, with his faithful dog Dougal appearing in the first scene, and 

  • Ian Talbot as Toad - much the youngest of the main cast, and I remember his performance best; he also appeared twice in Doctor Who, as Travis in The Silurians and Klout in The Leisure Hive.

I can still count the number of West End productions I have been to on the fingers of both hands, but this was particularly memorable as the dramatisation of a book that I already knew, so my pedantic soul twitched a bit at the divergences from the plot (notably of course the pruning away of most of the scenes without Toad in) but also hugely enjoyed the visuals. (If you're interested, the rest of the cast were Annabelle Lanyon, Tricia George, Jonathan Blake, Clive Carter, Robert Bridges, Albin Pahernik, Frank Vincent, Paddy Ward, Zoe Bright, Rita Henderson, Babs McMillan, Fiona Clare, Colin Copperfield, Rita Henderson, Tom Kelly, Myra Sands and Sally Templer.)

Going back to the book after many decades, I picked up on how marginalised the women characters are - two are cheated by Toad, and that's about it. There is no hint of how the animal characters reproduce, just manly friendship - with the striking exception of the Otters who take central stage in the single most memorable chapter, "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn", in which Rat goes in search of a neighbour's child and encounters the ineffable. It's also interesting that Toad has his encounters with human-world justice, but must resort to brute force rather than the law to regain residence at Toad Hall. (Though his quick forgiveness of former foes is rather charming.) It is a charming, quick read, but it has dated ever so slightly. You can get it here.

This was the top book on my shelves which I had previously read but not written up. Next on that pile is David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens.

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