The Merry Wives of Windsor, Barbican, London 4**** William Russell



By William Shakespeare

4**** A right carry on

The Barbican Theatre, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS to 5 January 2019.

In repertory 17, 18,19,22,27, 31 December & 2, 5 January at 7.15pm.

Mat 22, 27 December & 3, 5 January at 1.30pm.

Runs 2hr 50 mins One interval.


TICKETS: 020 7638 8891




Review: William Russell 12 December


Carry on Falstaff

      Set in the land of the Carry On films or possibly the wilds not of Windsor but Essex this is a splendidly rumbustuous account of the play with at its heart some hilarious performances from the wives and a gloriously pompous on from David Troughton as the butt of the jokes Sir John Falstaff. The time is roughly the present, Windsor is a couple of skeletal mock Tudor buildings created by Lez Brotherston , everyone is dressed in something more or less modern with Tudor trimmings, and there are lots of interpolated up to date jokes, including even a Brexit one. They work a treat.

It really is like a Carry On movie. The wives channel Barbara Windsor perfectly, or that blonde barmaid  from Coronation Street, or Mrs Shufflewick if you are Mistress Quickly, while the men are very strange indeed, and Fenton, the romantic lead who is loved by Anne Page, not only keeps tripping over the furniture but gets greeted by his very own theme tune when he makes an entrance.

There is no laundry basket but a wheelie bin for Sir John to be stuffed into and then tossed into a canal, as well as an automated golf bag which makes an entrance on its own accord at one point and is told to get off. The men who take the wheelie bin with Sir John inside it are immigrants from Eastern Europe and speak a language all their own. It

Fiona Laird’s direction is inventive,  takes the play by the scruff of the neck, gives it a much needed shaking and does it no harm. Farce has to be played at speed,  what is funny can date – and some Shakespearian comedy is no longer funny or now totally obscure as the meaning of words has changed. But all this has been taken care of, the new verbal jokes are funny, a couple are quite blue, Sir John’s codpiece is a landmark in itself,  and the physical routines have been beautifully thought out.

The backing musicians play jolly tunes, the mistresses Page and Ford (Rebecca Lacey and Beth Cordingly) are stunningly vulgar, the hostess at the garter wears leopard spot clothes, and you cannot get more up to the moment  than that. There are too many  lovely performances to mention, but Jonathan Cullen’s  Dr Caius is to die for, a would be Charles Boyer without the looks,  and what happens at the end when he finds has been deceived and married a boy is a “Nobody’s perfect” moment. It got, as it deserved, a howl of laughter. They even get away with the

Forget pantomime. This is the perfect show for the holiday season.


Mistress Page: Rebecca Lacey.

George Page: Paul Dodds.

Anne Page: Karin Fishwick.

Mistress Ford: Ruth Cordingly.

Frank Ford: Vince Leigh.

Sir Hugh Evans: David Acton.

Dr Caius: Jonathan Cullen.

Mistress Quickly: Ishia Bennison.

John Rigby: Stevie Basaula.

Fenton: Luke Newberry.

Beautician: Sakuntala Ramanee.

Sir John Falstaff: David Troughton.

Robin: Nima Taleghani.

Bardolph: Charlotte Josephine.

Pistol: Afolabi Alli.

Nym: Josh Finan.

The hostess of the Garter: Katy Brittain.

Shallow: Tim Samuels.

Slender: Tom Padley.

Simple: John Macaulay.


Director: Fiona Laird.

Designer: Lez Brotherston.

Lighting Designer: Tim Mitchell.

Sound Designer: Gregory Clarke.

Physical Comedy Director: Toby Park.

Choreography: Sam Spencer-Lane.

Fight Director: Tom Jordan.

Music Director: Gareth Ellis.

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