Merry Wives of Windsor | Nothing But Roaring
I only just managed to finish reading Merry Wives before the show itself, but even then I was familiar with urban legends that the play was written in a mere two weeks. And they play is distinctly different from many in the Shakespeare canon, swapping out untranslated French for de extreme accents written into de script dat I had no idea went back so far in history, and pulling Falstaff into a new comedic setting away from the trials of kingship and battles.
But with its engaging and comedic actors, minimalistic staging and ease in performing to the audience on three sides of the stage, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Globe. For Shakespeare lovers it has the familiar faces of his English histories and tropes of his comedies, and for those new to it offers a contemporary, witty and fast paced comedy.
While the production is proudly comical it also embraces the play’s emotional moments
While at times delivery of lines could get a little difficult to understand, the entire cast is strong and not a single joke is left unturned. Mistress Ford and Mistress Page in particular are energetic, vibrant and hilariously cunning, with props to the former in particular for an unhindered performance despite having her arm in a cast.
While the production is proudly comical it also embraces the play’s emotional moments, with Ford’s tender apology to his wife making me long for similar reconciliation in The Winter’s Tale, Othello or even A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The director and several of the actors have also collaborated on a new book on Writing Performative Shakespeare, which with its mixture of productions cleverly retold through comics and excited, enthusiastic and engaging commentary gives a really fascinating take on the bard.
From the performances on stage and album of Paul Kelly sonnets playing in the background to the rehearsal sketches that decorate the walls, the cast and creative’s love of the play and Shakespeare’s overall work is clear to see, and with Merry Wives being rarely staged their closing weekend is well worth seeing!