The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Pilot
With a swift jab of wit and a clumsy stumble, The Merry Wives of Windsor kicks pretentiousness in the face. This is loud, fun, frolicking Shakespeare.
Open Bar Theatre have created Shakespeare in the Garden, a summer of the eponymous playwright’s shows staged in the gardens of Fuller’s pubs. And starting at The Pilot, they’re touring The Merry Wives of Windsor, the Bard’s prank-laden comedy, where John Falstaff’s attempt to woo two wives backfires on him spectacularly.
This is pub-garden Shakespeare at its most expected. A jolly and raucous affair that makes no apologies for its lack of polish. There are no world-class television actors looking to give theatre a go with the most popular role they can think of. And the audience is no snoot, recalling the time they saw a thought-provoking and life-changing rendition of this play at some famous theatre. It’s simply and purely a gathering of pint-swilling, wine-sipping people having a good old fun evening.
It’s certainly rough around the edges. And indeed everywhere else. But in an endearing manner. With more than 15 roles shared between the six actors, plenty of quick-change gags make their way into the Bard’s work. These are certainly gags that have been seen and heard a thousand times before but, even so, they keep the energy levels up and add to the casual not-so-serious atmosphere.
As well as playing multiple characters, the performers are quick to react to unexpected occurrences. They throw in improvised wit that takes the audience by surprise and it is utterly delightful.
While even Shakespeare’s more rowdy comedies can be co-opted by a more elitist tribe, there’s no need to worry about that here. The Merry Wives of Windsor is pure fun and silliness. It’s a slightly spilled pint of beer rather than a 2006 Bordeaux served in an immaculate crystal glass. It might not be perfect but you don’t have to be a connoisseur to get loads of enjoyment from it.
Photo: Open Bar Theatre
The Merry Wives of Windsor was at the Pilot from 30th until 31st July as part of Shakespeare in the Garden, which is on tour until 14th September 2019. For further information about dates and venues visit the event’s website here.