Toad of Toad Hall is a play written by A. A. Milne – the first of several dramatisations of Kenneth Grahame's 1908 novel The Wind in the Willows – with incidental music by Harold Fraser-Simson. It was originally produced by William Armstrong at the Playhouse Theatre, Liverpool, on 21 December 1929. It was given in the West End the following year, and has been revived frequently over the following ten decades.
Background and first productions
For his stage version of Grahame's book, the humorist and playwright A. A. Milne concentrated on the adventures of Mr Toad, which make up about half of the original book, because they lent themselves most easily to being staged. He loved Grahame's book, which is one of the reasons why he decided to adapt it. He wrote in the introduction to the published play:
The first production was at the Playhouse Theatre, Liverpool, on 21 December 1929, under the direction of William Armstrong. The first London productions were at the Lyric Theatre on 17 December 1930 and the Savoy Theatre on 22 December 1931, directed by Frank Cellier.
|Liverpool, 1929||Lyric, 1930||Savoy, 1931|
|Nurse||Mamie Hunt||Mona Jenkins||Mona Jenkins|
|Marigold||Katrina Kaufmann||Wendy Toye||Nova Pilbeam|
|The Mole||Alan Webb||Richard Goolden||Richard Goolden|
|The Water Rat||Lloyd Pearson||Ivor Barnard||A. Cameron Hall|
|Mr Badger||Wyndham Goldie||Eric Stanley||Eric Stanley|
|Toad||Leslie Kyle||Frederick Burtwell||Frederick Burtwell|
|Alfred||Peter Mather||R. Halliday Mason||R. Halliday Mason|
|Back Legs of Alfred||Martin Hyde||Frank Snell||Frank Snell|
|Chief Weasel||Nelson Welch||Ronald Alpe||Robert Hughes|
|Chief Stoat||John Guinness||William McGuigan||Leslie Stroud|
|Chief Ferret||John Robinson||Alfred Fairhurst||Neal Alston|
|First Field-Mouse||Sally Lockhart||Gordon Tucker||Jim Neal|
|Second Field-Mouse||Audrey Wilson||Robert Sinclair||Jim Soloman|
|Policeman||Herbert Bickerstaff||Alban Blakelock||Alban Blakelock|
|Gaoler||Basil Nairn||Alfred Fairhurst||Robert Hughes|
|Judge||James Harcourt||Alfred Clark||Tom Reynolds|
|Usher||Alfred Sangster||Humphrey Morton||Beeson King|
|Turkey||Lorraine Cromarty||Gordon Tucker||Jim Soloman|
|Duck||Trevor Reid||Robert Sinclair||Jim Neal|
|Phoebe||Joan Harker||Joan Harker||Wendy Toye|
|Washerwoman||Marjorie Fielding||Dorothy Fane||Dorothy Fane|
|Mama Rabbit||Elizabeth Ripley||Phyllis Coulthard||Phyllis Coulthard|
|Harold Rabbit||Doris Forrest||Marcus Haig||Jim Ned|
|Lucy Rabbit||Kathleen Boutcher||Daphne Allen||Daphne Allen|
|Barge-Woman||Pauline Lacey||Frances Waring||Muriel Johnston|
The play comprises a prologue, four acts and an epilogue:
- Prologue and Act 1
- Down by the Willows
- The play is framed by scenes featuring two characters not in Grahame's book: a 12-year-old girl, Marigold, and her nurse, sitting near a river. Marigold tells her nurse about the riverbank animals, and the scene fades into the main action. Marigold and the nurse are not seen again until the epilogue of the play. Mole emerges from his underground home, and meets Rat and Badger for the first time. They are joined by Toad, who persuades Mole and Rat to join him on a holiday in his new horse-drawn caravan, pulled by the querulous horse Alfred. Unseen, the weasels, ferrets and stoats curse Toad, whom they hate. The caravan is in collision with a motor-car, and Toad becomes instantly obsessed with becoming a motorist. Mole and Rat lead him homewards.
- Act II
- 1. The Wild Wood
- In deep snow, Toad, who has once again crashed his car (his eighth), walks fearfully through the wood, harried by the weasels and their allies. When he has gone, Mole stumbles on, lost, and is rescued by Rat, who has been looking for him. They find themselves at the entrance to Badger's house and ring the bell.
- 2. Badger's House
- Safely inside Badger's underground house, Mole and Rat refresh themselves, and discuss with Badger the excesses Toad has been committing, squandering his fortune on expensive cars and crashing them. Toad now finds Badger's house, and seeks refuge. Badger lectures him about his foolish ways, but Toad is unrepentant. Badger says that Toad must stay with him until his motor-mania has worn off, and Toad is locked into the guest-bedroom.
- 3. The Same. Some Weeks Later
- In the absence of Badger and Mole, Toad tricks Rat into letting him escape from his confinement at Badger's house and he flees, singing a gleeful and boastful song to himself.
- 1. The Wild Wood
- Act III
- 1. The Court-House
- Toad is on trial for stealing a motor-car, driving recklessly, and, most seriously, being grossly impertinent to a police officer. He is found guilty and sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment.
- 2. The Dungeon
- Phoebe, the jailer's daughter, takes pity on Toad, and helps him escape by disguising him as a washerwoman.
- 3. The Canal Bank
- Toad shakes off the pursuing forces of law and order, and hitches a ride on a canal barge. He quarrels with the barge-woman, steals her horse and rides off.
- 1. The Court-House
- Act IV
- 1. Rat's House By The River
- Toad makes his way to Rat's house, where he learns to his horror that his grand residence, Toad Hall, has been occupied by the weasels, ferrets and stoats. When Mole and Badger enter, the four discuss how to drive the occupiers out.
- 2. The Underground Passage
- In a secret underground passage the four friends prepare to enter Toad Hall and catch the occupiers unawares.
- 3. The Banqueting-Room at Toad Hall
- The Chief Weasel's birthday party is in progress. Badger leads the attack and the enemy is quickly routed. Toad sings a song about his homecoming and gradually the other characters of the play – including the weasels, Mole, Rat, the judge, Alfred, the barge-woman, Phoebe, and last of all Badger – join in dancing in a circle round the triumphant Toad.
- 1. Rat's House By The River
- The Wind in the Willows
- The scene at Toad Hall fades away and the setting is as it was for the prologue. Marigold is asleep; a badger, a water-rat, a mole and finally a toad pass the slumbering child, before the nurse tells her it is time to wake up and come home.
- The Wind in the Willows
Although not a musical, the play contains ten musical numbers composed by Harold Fraser-Simson:
Reviewing the Liverpool premiere, The Stage commented that Milne had succeeded brilliantly in putting Grahame's characters on the stage, but thought the play might be over the heads of a children's audience, having "so much in it to appeal to the adult mind". The other principal theatrical paper, The Era, thought that there might be "a certain amount of doubt whether Mr Milne has succeeded in bringing the peculiar and indefinable atmosphere of Kenneth Grahame's little classic in the realms of fantasy, The Wind in the Willows, on to the stage. But perhaps he never attempted to do so. What he has actually done has been to provide an entertainment brimful of delight, for childish hearts".
The play was revived in the West End each year from 1932 to 1935, and was next seen there in 1954, in a production first seen at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, with Leo McKern as Toad, William Squire as Rat, Edward Atienza as Mole and Brewster Mason as Badger.
In the 1960s and 1970s there were annual West End revivals during the Christmas season, with Goolden returning to the part of Mole in every year except one. Among the actors appearing in the play in London and elsewhere were, in the title role Michael Bates, Hywel Bennett, Derek Godfrey, Nicky Henson, Michael Hordern, Paul Scofield, Ian Wallace, Michael Williams, Peter Woodthorpe and Patrick Wymark. Alan Badel and Clive Revill were among those seen as Rat; Badgers included Michael Blakemore, Mark Dignam, John Justin and John Woodvine. Performers seen in other roles in the play included Beverley Cross, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Rita Tushingham and Brett Usher. In the 1980s and subsequently the play has been frequently revived in London, the British provinces and in North America.
The BBC has broadcast several adaptations of the play. A 1942 radio version featured Goolden and Burtwell reprising their roles from the first London production, Fred Yule was Badger and Vernon Harris was Rat. Michael Barry's television version of the play was broadcast live on eight occasions between 1946 and 1950 with varying casts, the only principal common to all eight being Kenneth More as Badger. A 1953 television version featured Gerald Campion as Toad and Patrick Troughton as Badger.
A serialised radio adaptation of the play was broadcast on Children's Hour in 1948; Norman Shelley played Toad, Goolden was Mole and Leslie French Rat. A 1973 radio version featured Goolden with Derek Smith as Toad, Bernard Cribbins as Rat, Cyril Luckham as Badger and Hugh Paddick as the Judge. This version was broadcast again in 1973, 1976, 1979, 1981 and 1990.
References and sources
- Milne (1946), p. v
- "Provincial Productions", The Stage, 26 December 1929, p. 18; "Toad of Toad Hall", The Era, 24 December 1920, p. 1; and Milne (1932), p. iii
- Milne (1946), pp. 1–24
- Milne (1946), pp. 25–32
- Milne (1946), pp. 33–46
- Milne (1946), pp. 47–66
- Milne (1946), pp. 67–75
- Milne (1946), pp. 76–84
- Milne (1946), pp. 85–95
- Milne (1946), pp. 96–98
- Milne (1946), pp. 99–110
- Milne (1946), p. 111
- "Toad of Toad Hall", WorldCat. Retrieved 23 April 2021
- "Provincial Productions", The Stage, 26 December 1929, p. 18
- "Toad of Toad Hall", The Era, 24 December 1920, p. 1
- "Christmas Shows", The Stage, 31 December 1954, p. 8
- Herbert, pp. 482–483
- Herbert, p. 391
- Herbert, p. 403
- Herbert, p. 658
- Herbert, p. 723
- Herbert, p. 745
- Trewin, p. 8
- "Theatres", The Times, 23 December 1964, p. 11
- Herbert, p. 1257
- Herbert, p. 1269
- "Toad of Toad Hall", Royal Shakespeare Company. Retrieved 23 April 2021
- Herbert, p. 374 and 1059
- Herbert, pp. 420, 553, 794 and 1269
- Herbert, pp. 521, 545, 1199 and 27; and "Toad of Toad Hall", Ian McKellen. Retrieved 23 April 2021
- The Stage, 15 October 1981, p. 1, 8 July 1982, p. 2, 30 June 1983, p. 23, 12 January 1984, p. 11, 17 January 1985, p. 29, 16 January 1986, pp. 34–35, 18 June 1987, pp. 1–2 and 10 August 1989, p. 26; Illustrated London News, 8 December 1990, p. 83, 2 December 1991, p. 79, 2 March 1992, p. 84, 6 December 1993, p. 74, 6 December 1994, p. 75 and 4 December 1995, p. 83; The Guardian, 18 November 2000, p. 174; Calgary Herald, 19 January 2010, p. 42; The Missoulian, 17 November 2010, p. 43; and Red Deer Advocate, 25 November 2011, p. 31
- "Toad of Toad Hall", Radio Times, 26 December 1942, p. 22
- "Toad of Toad Hall", BBC Genome. Retrieved 23 April 2021
- "Toad of Toad Hall", Radio Times, 26 April 1948, p. 10
- Herbert, Ian (ed) (1977). Who's Who in the Theatre (sixteenth ed.). London and Detroit: Pitman Publishing and Gale Research. ISBN 978-0-273-00163-8.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- Milne, A. A. (1932). Toad of Toad Hall. London: Samuel French. OCLC 772896476.
- Milne, A. A. (1946). Toad of Toad Hall. London: Methuen. OCLC 963200557.
- Trewin, J. C. (1956). Paul Scofield: An illustrated study of his work. London: Rockliff. OCLC 1150965542.