Engaging night filled with fun
The MerryWives ofWindsor by William Shakespeare Directed by Kelly Harris for Summer Shakespeare The Esplanade, March 3 – 12 Reviewed by RichardMays
Rambunctious and ribald, full of slapstick and double entendre, Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor makes a wonderful Summer Shakespeare.
Not performed all that often, Merry Wives is one of the Bard’s comedies, but not a courtly one, despite Windsor being in the title. Back then, Windsor was a small town on the outskirts of London, famous for its castle and garden. The royal residence came later.
The play’s characters are members of the burgeoning middle class, and while Shakespeare is poking fun at the people of his own day, technically the play is set in an earlier era – the 1400s during the reign of King Henry IV.
One of Shakespeare’s loveable rogues, Sir John Falstaff, traditionally an overweight slob, finds himself short of cash, and decides that seducing a couple of the town’s wealthier women will help him to some coin. Usually played as a seedy older man, director Kelly Harris has cast Toby Lockhart as a younger version of the old goat – one who is not quite as practised as a lothario. It works.
Falstaff sends Mistress Page and Mistress Ford, delightfully pitched by the talented team of Maree Gibson and Hannah Pratt, letters of love hoping they will respond to his charms.
They respond all right, but not quite as Falstaff envisions. Comparing notes, the two women conspire to entertain themselves at Falstaff’s expense, without compromising their dignities or their marriages. Mistress Ford however, has an overly jealous husband, brought to life by Matt Walden, who is hot on the scent of the suspected affair.
His inconvenient appearances all add to the fun.
And great fun it is, and also fluent, with characters fully committed to the play’s farcical implausibilities, and who perform with gusto in the wonderful setting under the spreading tree at the far end of the rose gardens.
The subplot sees Mistress Page’s daughter Anne beset by suitors, but resisting the opposing preferences of her parents, to marry the man of her choice. It makes an engaging and lighthearted night ‘out’ at the theatre. Unexpectedly, I found myself enjoying the operatic part of this concert better than the pop-aretic.
The three guys with the formidable voices and a great line in banter wooed and wowed the aircraft hangar sized stadium