The Merry Wives of Windsor at Shakespeare’s Globe online
A refreshingly unique, unusual and joyous romp, Shakespeare’s Globe’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, directed by Elle While, presents an uproarious and clever version of the Bard’s classic farce. This is the story of the infamous Falstaff (Pearce Quigley) who seeks to woo married women to gain access to their husbands’ money, and the tricks the latter play on him when they discover his deceit.
Part theatrical spoof with a touch of Molière, part musical and cabaret, this Shakespearean rendition meets Chicago Elizabethan-slapstick transports us back to the 1930s Jazz Age – with a superb rousing band consisting of trumpet, trombone, clarinet, piano and drums and a highly talented ensemble that exhibits not only first-rate acting and comic timing but also remarkable singing and dancing.
The lingo is Shakespearean, but the vibe is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s New Orleans combined with contemporary sensibility in terms of its performer diversity, use of textual creative license and high-spirited ad-libbing. Very witty in its wording and portrayals, often bawdy with copious sexual innuendos, this piece was apparently the author’s least favoured creation, and yet as comedy, it is brilliant.
Maintaining a continuous vivacity with lively music and quick transitions, the pace never slows. The characters are priceless and well cast with excellent, charismatic performers. The conniving Falstaff is superbly portrayed by Quigley as a happy-go-lucky, self-deprecating yet over-confident rascal who is actually rather harmless, even endearing if you overlook his foolishness. Jude Owusu plays Master Ford and his alter-ego Mr. Brook with comic panache as an outraged and jealous but shrewd husband. Anita Reynolds imbues Mistress Quickly with a distinctive, charmingly vibrant personality, and Richard Katz’s Doctor Caius is masterfully outrageous with his strong French accent that makes everything he says sound salacious – “What is dee clock?”. Anne Odeke displays comic artfulness, playing three roles; all the actors are outstanding. This is a tight, organically well-coordinated show, full of spirit and great fun.
Credit for the success of this incarnation must be given to While’s direction and to the terrific performances and sound – staging and costumes are also superlative. Hilarious and tremendously entertaining, Shakespeare’s Globe’s The Merry Wives of Windsor is a joyful treat to behold.
Photo: Helen Murray
The Merry Wives of Windsor is on Shakespeare’s Globe’s YouTube channel from 1st June until 14th June 2020. For further information visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for The Merry Wives of Windsor here: