'The Merry Wives of Windsor', by the RSC; a review.

Last night I returned to one of my favourite theatres in the city, the Barbican, to see ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ performed by the RSC. Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know how much I love seeing the RSC, and so it should come as no surprise to you that I really enjoyed this production. 

'Down on his luck in the suburbs, Sir John Falstaff (David Troughton) plans to hustle his way to a comfortable retirement by seducing the wives of two wealthy men. Unknown to him, it’s the women of Windsor who really pull the strings, orchestrating his comeuppance amid a theatrical smorgasbord of petty rivalries, jealousies and over-inflated egos.

For a fat Englishman, a Welshman and a Frenchman, the only way is Windsor...

Right, so, I never really watch reality TV, but apparently this production brings that vibe – a review from the Daily Telegraph insists that it’s ‘Shakespeare meets The Only Way is Essex’! Well, I can definitely say Fiona Laird’s ‘Merry Wives’ is not your typical interpretation of the Bard. I mean, it opens with a letter from the Queen (whose face is projected onto a white sheet, the audience hearing groans from Shakespeare as she talks) and then a musical intro; each character presents themselves to the audience and their name appears behind them, much like a TV show. There are also little bursts of music throughout the play, when characters come onstage and exit. 

The wives, played by Beth Cordingly and Rebecca Lacey, were definitely the highlight for me. Their mischief and deception was a treat to watch, as they go out of their way to dethrone a pompous, entitled old man with a very offensive codpiece; they assert themselves as simply ‘merry’ without being seen or treated as sex objects. 

My other favourite characters had to be Dr Caius (Jonathan Cullen), the funny Frenchman who mispronounces words in the most unfortunate ways (‘ears’ became ‘arse’, etc.) and, actually, the really quite idiotic Abraham Slender (Tom Padley), a silly lad whose tragic attempts to woo Anne Page did have me giggling. 

This show was definitely one of my favourites by the RSC. Looking up the info afterwards (as I deliberately went in ‘blind’, not having done any research to see what my genuine immediate impressions were!) I saw that Toby Park (from Spymonkey) was Physical Comedy Director, which made complete sense as that was such a huge (and brilliant) part of the production. Shout-out to Lez Brotherson (Design) and Tim Mitchell (Lighting) too, because the whole stage was truly magnificent throughout. 

(all sources linked to images)

Fancy getting some RSC (with added TOWIE!?) magic in before Christmas, or in the new year? This production is on until the 5th of January at the Barbican. 


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