RSC Merry Wives of Windsor

REVIEW | Merry Wives of Windsor | RSC

Tackling the comedy of Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor and making it appeal to a young audience seems like a challenge, but the RSC’s latest production is lavish, stylish and ludicrously funny.


Director Fiona Laird has completely transformed this Shakespearean comedy with her totally modern approach. With bright colours, camp characters and lots of sparkle, she has successfully blended the idea of a contemporary reality TV show with one of Shakespeare’s classics.

Think the Real Housewives of Cheshire with a lot of TOWIE thrown in, it feels incredibly fresh and ridiculously funny. Telling the story of suburban middle-class wives, over-inflated egos and entitled men, it is Shakespeare gold. John Falstaff, an upper-class man who is short of money, attempts to fool the wives by exploiting them and ripping them off, but they have the upper hand.

Opening to vibrant music that mixes a renaissance tune with electric beats, the play is instantly accessible as it introduces the characters one by one to set the scene.

The characters are over the top but they’re entirely genuine, and it’s the first Shakespeare production at the RSC that feels like real life. Creating superb representation on stage, the women are strong, smart, and prove that your heels (and hair) can be high but that doesn’t mean you should be underestimated. Laird’s depiction of women in this show is quite frankly spot on, and it’s a triumphantly relevant Shakespeare production.

David Troughton depicts an excellent exaggeration of a stereotypical empowered white man. Shakespeare was known for not investing as much into his female characters, and this show really is about the women, which Troughton really enhances. Portraying the vulgar, narcissistic and self-riotous character, Troughton embodies the role with comedic flair.

  

Beth Cordingly as Mistress Ford and Rebecca Lacey as Mistress Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor - Credit- Manuel Harlan RSC
Beth Cordingly as Mistress Ford and Rebecca Lacey as Mistress Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor – Credit- Manuel Harlan RSC

   

The women in the production are truly radiant and exude glamour and intelligence with their sublime stage presence. Mistress Page (Rebecca Lacey) and Mistress Ford (Beth Cordingly) lead the production as the pair of mischievous wives. With impeccable comedy timing and faultless characterisation, they bring immense life and soul to the play. Karen Fishwick is unrecognisable from her role as Juliet as the stubbornly spoilt Anne Page and Ishia Bennison is exceptionally funny.

This production maintains the beauty of how it was originally written, but propels the story into a modern era. Designer Lez Brotherston has creatively brought the story to life with his simple yet innovative designs that bring colour and personality to the stage.

With Brexit jokes, audience interaction and outlandish comedy, Fiona Laird’s production of Merry Wives of Windsor is pure genius. The feminist take on the show is remarkably refreshing, making the characters authentic and the show accessible to all ages and gender. It’s bold, loud, heaps of fun and exactly the direction the RSC should be heading in, to engage with a young audience.

★★★★★

On at the RSC from the 4th of August to the 22nd of September at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Tickets and information can be found online here.

One Comment

  • Brigitte Uhrmann

    3rd September 2018 at 3:15 pm

    ***** from me too. Who would have thought that Shakespeare´s weakest comdey can be such a treat. Magnificent performances, gorgeous costumes and set. David Troughton gives us the over the top self-confidence of the old knight as well as the loneliness and despair of a man who has seen better times. The gender swaps for Bardoplh and the Hostess make such sense now.

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