MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR: William Shakespeare
RSC at the RST, Stratford Upon Avon
Runs: 2h 45m, one interval, till 12 01 13
Info (Merry Wives): http://www.rsc.org.uk/whats-on/the-merry-wives-of-windsor/
Review: Alexander Ray, 01 11 12
Unhurried, unfussy, witty interpretation with lovely performances all round.
The story goes, as many will know, that Elizabeth I asked for MERRY WIVES to be written because she wanted to see Falstaff in love. Whether or not this is true, who really knows? Interestingly, though, this production truly is about the merry Wives and not about Falstaff.
Director, Phillip Breen, has decided to place the story in modern times – often it feels like 70s, often it wanders about a bit – which is fine by me. It’s marvellous to see Desmond Barrit back at Stratford; marvellous to see him expanding into Sir John Falstaff. In this virtually contemporary setting we can totally believe in this disreputable character. Barrit makes no external judgement on Falstaff – he creates an entirely unforced, three-dimensional character. We are free to judge him though, this knight is not in love, he sees his sexual conquest as a mark of his irresistibility. His downfall is necessary, deserved and, most importantly, comedic.
The two wives – Mrs Page and Mrs Ford – are superb creations in the hands of Sylvestra La Touzel and Alexandra Gilbreath. They are strongly contrasted; Page very County and Ford equally Noveau. But they are friends – and we like that. But this is a play about a trio of women; the third is Mrs Quickly. Anita Dobson creates a completely dotty characters, totally likeable and based, it would seem, on her name. Her direct address sections are a joy.
Strongly cast, there’s never a dull moment in Breen’s unhurried production. The story is allowed to find its own pace, supported by a fine score from Paddy Cunneen.
Desmond Barrit – Sir John Falstaff
David Charles – Sir Hugh Evans
Anita Dobson – Mistress Quickly
Paapa Essiedu – Fenton
Calum Finlay – Slender
Alexandra Gilbreath – Mistress Ford
Stephen Harper – Bardolph
Martin Hyder – George Page
Julia Innocenti – Neighbour
Ansu Kabia – Nym
Sylvestra Le Touzel – Mistress Page
Carla Mendonça – Neighbour
Thomas Pickles – Simple
John Ramm – Frank Ford
Naomi Sheldon – Anne Page
Ged Simmons – Pistol/John
Bart Soroczynski – Dr Caius
David Sterne – Shallow
Simeon Truby – Host Of The Garter Inn
Obioma Ugoala – Rugby/Robert
Director – Phillip Breen
Designer – Max Jones
Lighting – Tina MacHugh
Music – Paddy Cunneen
Sound – Simon Baker
Movement – Ayse Tashkiran
Fights – Renny Krupinski