En­gag­ing night filled with fun

The Tribune (NZ) - - REVIEWS -

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

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