THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR
by William Shakespeare.
Shakespeare’s Globe Tour to 11 December 2010.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7401 9919.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 19 August at Shakespeare’s Globe London.
Fun and games in Bankside Berkshire.
As happy a light Shakespeare night as could be, Christopher Luscombe’s revival of his 2008 Globe production of The Merry Wives is fast and pointed. Set in a public house and private homes in Windsor, the Globe’s central doors open to reveal inner-stage drinkers, with a table wheeled on for the Garter scenes, while the doors close for the homes of Windsor worthies Ford and Page, whose wives are the merry women concerned.
A good deal merrier than George Page’s daughter Anne, faced with two unsuitable suitors backed respectively by her father (vehemently) and mother (with more consideration). A garden idyll is built-out among the groundlings’ space for Anne and her beloved Fenton. Neither makes much impact, except through their musical theme, a soft wind tune that might be from a small-scale 1950s musical.
No harm in that. The setting could be (has been in one RSC production) the 1950s – or the 1590s, were it not for the sine qua non of Sir John Falstaff. If the play was written to show Sir John in Love, it actually shows love was not his element. The knight whose wit and viciousness are finely balanced throughout Henry IV is here simply mocked for the vanity of the fat and old.
Fortunately, there’s Christopher Benjamin to bring his energetic bonhomie to the role – something the other well-known names imported in Sir John’s retinue from the Henrys are given no chance to develop. And Luscombe modifies the simple contrast between George Page’s trust in his wife and the self-destructive jealousy of Andrew Havill’s Frank Ford, for Michael Garner’s Page is as rough-voiced and domineering to his daughter as Havill’s Ford is to his wife.
Disguised as Brook, apparently seeking Sir John’s help to seduce his own wife, Havill‘s Ford might not reach the self-lacerating frenzy Ian Richardson brought to the role, but he uses a Globe pillar well to hide the rage behind his complicity at Falstaff’s plotting. With Serena Evans and Sarah Woodward merrily showing-up a jealous husband as much as their self-deluded suitor, this is a good night for minor Shakespeare.
Sir John Falstaff: Christopher Benjamin.
Robin: Edward Holtom/Richard Linnell.
Pistol/John: Paul Woodson.
Nym/Robert: Gregory Gudgeon.
George Page: Michael Garner.
Meg Page: Serena Evans,
Anne Page: Cery-Lyn Cissone.
William Page: Alfie Keenan/Jack Martyn.
Frank Ford: Andrew Havill.
Alice Ford: Saraah Woodward.
:Dr Caius: Philip Bird.
Mistress Quickly: Sue Wallace.
John Rugby: Barnaby Edwards.
Robert Shallow: Peter Gale.
Abraham Slender: William Belchambers.
Peter Simple: Nathan Amzi.
Sir Hugh Evans: Gareth Armstrong.
Host of the Garter Inn: Jonty Stephens.
Fenton: Gerard McCarthy.
Children: Mabel Cefai, Grae McCarthy-Steed, Raffi Ricca/Hannah Green, Megan Kwashi, Conor Mullaney.
Director: Christopher Luscombe.
Designer: Janet Bird.
Music: Nigel Hess.
Musical Director: William Lyons.
Choreographer: Jenny Arnold.
Movement: Glynn MacDonald.
Voice/Dialect: Jan Haydn Rowles.
Text work: Giles Block.
Fight director: Malcolm Ransom.
Assistant director: Sarah Norman.
Associate choreographer: Graeme Henderson.