Heavyweights lined up in Stratford for Merry Wives
Desmond Barrit returns to the Royal Shakespeare Company this week to play Shakespeare's great comic knight Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Anita Dobson makes her RSC debut in the role of Mistress Quickly. She recently played Joan Crawford in the UK tour of Bette and Joan.
She also played Gertrude in English Touring Theatre's Hamlet and was nominated for an Olivier for her role in Bryony Lavery’s Frozen at the National Theatre.
Philip Breen will be directing his first production for the RSC and says he is approaching it with “a mixture of nerves and excitement”.
“It's a huge honour,” he says. “We hope audiences will laugh and have a good time.”
Breen says he cast Anita Dobson as Mistress Quickly after seeing her in Frozen.
“She was stunning in it. And then I saw her as Gertrude in Hamlet in which she was equally good.
“I wanted someone who I thought had an affinity with the audience, is funny and charismatic and someone who I think the audience will love.”
As for Desmond Barrit, Breen says, “He's just brilliant; when the possibility of Merry Wives came up and the fact that Des might be playing Falstaff. I couldn't have imagined a more perfect piece of dream casting.
“This is in a lot of ways a different Falstaff. We're looking for a big guy, a mature man, with charisma and comic timing—you couldn't get any better. I'm absolutely delighted.”
The rest of the cast comprises David Charles (Sir Hugh Evans); 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); and Obioma Ugoala (Rugby/Robert).
Breen’s recent credits include Sex with a Stranger (Trafalgar Studios 2) and A Day in the Death of Joe Egg at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow.
Designer is Max Jones; lighting is by Tina MacHugh; music by Paddy Cunneen; sound by Simon Baker; movement by Ayse Tashkiran; and fights by Renny Krupinski.
The Merry Wives of Windsor runs in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre from Thursday (25 October) until Saturday, 12 January.