The Merry Wives of Windsor
“Look at the positive way Shakespeare presents women in the Merry Wives of Windsor,” the actor Colette Adams advised.
And sure enough, if the men in this good-natured farce comically squabble, chase women for the money they will bring and generally show a good deal of stupidity, the plot is given direction and resolution by a whole series of confident, intelligent, articulate women.
Sarah Finigan and Bryony Hannah give bright, naturalistic performances as Mistress Page and Mistress Ford that makes them seem incredibly contemporary. These shrewd married characters decide to put the roguish Falstaff through a cold water lesson for his predatory attitude to women.
Page’s daughter Anne (Boadicea Ricketts) is being pursued by two of the most idiotic men you could imagine, but she has affections for Fenton (Zach Wyatt). Although he may honestly love her and be practically the only male character the play does not mock, her parents regard him as an unsuitable partner. We quickly suspect how this will turn out and that Mistress Quickly’s (Anita Reynolds) sympathies for the young couple might help in the matter.
Elle While’s stylish jazz-age production has a brisk sense of movement throughout, with Pearce Quigley as a fine, melancholy, even at times laconic Falstaff, whose comic timing had the audience roaring with laughter.
Not everything works in this production. Rather than soften the cartoon exaggerations of the French Dr. Caius (Richard Katz), they carry the character’s mispronounciations even beyond the now dated silliness of 'Allo 'Allo! by having him somehow manage to include the word “twat” and repeatedly the word “bugger” in his epic mistakes. People regarded as foreign deserve better and so do the rest of us.
The play itself may not have the wit of Much Ado About Nothing, or the outrage at the mistreatment of women we see in Measure for Measure, but it gives us plenty of reasons to like and respect the merry wives of Windsor.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna