Summer Shakespeare opens
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.
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.