Sum­mer Shake­speare opens

The Tribune (NZ) - - ENTERTAINMENT & ARTS -

If that TV show Tricked with ma­gi­cian Ben Han­lin was back in El­iz­a­bethan times, it may well have been like this. Shake­speare’s ver­sion of Punk’d, aka The Merry Wives of Wind­sor, is this year’s Sum­mer Shake­speare.

Di­rec­tor Kelly Har­ris of Skin Theatre has im­bued the play, orig­i­nally set back in the knights-in-armour days dur­ing the reign of English Henry IV, with some mod­ern in­flu­ences, and stylised cos­tumes.

Merry Wives fea­tures one of the Bard’s most beloved buf­foons, Sir John Fal­staff, but in­stead of the typ­i­cal older fat man, Kelly has cast him as a younger wom­an­iser.

‘‘There’s a lot of phys­i­cal com­edy in the play, and this [ap­proach] has worked out won­der­fully well,’’ she says.

It’s a hugely tal­ented and ex­pe­ri­enced cast that in­cludes for­mer Globe Theatre Award win­ners Han­nah Pratt as Mis­tress Ford, Maree Gib­son as Mis­tress Page, and Matt Walden as the un­rea­son­ably jeal­ous Ford, with To­bias Lock­hart as Sir John.

‘‘We’ve also got some new young per­form­ers, per­form­ing arts grad­u­ates from UCOL who bring a whole dif­fer­ent en­ergy, and Mike and Polly Pyefinch who have moved from Welling­ton where they were in­volved in reper­tory theatre.’’

Sir John proves equally in­ept at love, war and money. Broke again, he tries it on with two wealthy mar­ried women, Mis­tress Page and Mis­tress Ford.

The pair re­alise what the gold-dig­ging lothario is up to, but go along with it in or­der to have some fun at his ex­pense. They pull some pretty rude, crude and hu­mil­i­at­ing tricks, but the lust­ful greedy knight keeps com­ing back for more.

There is also a tale of youth­ful love wo­ven into this story. Anne Page, daugh­ter of Mis­tress Page and her hus­band, is be­ing se­ri­ally wooed. Her par­ents favour dif­fer­ent suit­ors. She, how­ever, only has eyes for one. Dur­ing the gen­eral con- fu­sion and dis­guises, Anne tricks her other suit­ors and mar­ries the man of her choice.

The Merry Wives of Wind­sor opens to­mor­row night (Thurs­day) at the south­ern end of the gar­dens, and plays Fri­day and Satur­day evening with a 2.30pm Sun­day mati­nee, and Thurs­day, Fri­day and Satur­day next week. Wet weather venue is the Black Sheep Theatre at Massey.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

Mike Pyefinch plays trust­ing hus­band Page in the Sum­mer Shake­speare pro­duc­tion of the com­edy The Merry Wives of Wind­sor open­ing this week in the Es­planade Rose Gar­dens.

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