Guildford Shakespeare Company

present


William Shakespeare’s

THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR

Stoke Park Railway,
Burchatts Farm Gate,
London Road, GU1 1TU
Box Office … 01483 304384   
guildford-shakespeare-company.co.uk
13 – 27 July 2019
Reviewed by Sheila Connor

 

GSC are a site specific company and they are adept at finding unusual sites for their productions and, without changing Shakespeare’s text, making the play suit the venue - or is it the other way around? This time The Merry Wives of Windsor are at Stoke Park Miniature railway and the time is the late 1970s.  Even before the play begins we are treated to music from the sit-coms of the time and radio news announcements, some of which must have come as a surprise to all the younger members of the audience but I remember it well. It was a time when workers in almost every industry were obeying their union bosses and were constantly on strike for any reason, ridiculous or not, that could be found and it was a bonus if you actually had electricity for a whole day.  Rubbish piled up in the streets and the rats had a field day.

 

Happily none of this bothers these Merry Wives, and Shakespeare’s sit-com begins with Dolly Parton’s ‘Nine to Five’ and commuters arriving home by train and indulging in a very funny (and unexpected) happy dance while Master George Page (Matt Pinches)  and Master Frank Ford (James Burton) greet their respective wives. 

 

Considering that this is a play about jealousy, avarice, attempted seduction, conspiracy and deceit it turns into a glorious romp as the two wives discuss how to punish Peter Gordon’s  impoverished Falstaff for sending them each totally identical love letters, especially as his intention is to gain money “the wives have all the rule of their husbands’ purse”. Sarah Gobran and Emma Fenney have great fun and a lot of laughter as the wives discussing their plan to teach Falstaff a lesson.  

 

GSC often slip in little comic touches and Frank’s  “I promised you a dinner” as he give his wife her apron is a husband in control but he is insanely jealous, and it is this jealousy which provides most of the comedy. He becomes apoplectic with rage when he can’t find Falstaff who he thinks is hiding in his house which is hilarious enough, but brings even more gales of laughter when, in disguise he appears as an Elvin like character, very laid back and casual. What a contrast! 

 

Meanwhile there are three suitors for the hand of daughter Anne Page (Francesca Baker in rebellious teenage mode) with her father favouring one, her mother another. Slender, clutching a teddy, is a ‘mother’s boy’ and a bit daft, and who would want the strange yogi Dr. Caius although I loved and laughed a lot at the wonderful Alex Scott Fairley’s interpretation of the role, but Anne is in love with the boyishly sincere Fenton (Isaac Stanmore)  Will she get her way?

 

Also how could I possibly forget Rosalind Blessed who is having a ball as Mistress Quickly being paid to plead the cause of all three suiters and hamming it up crazily exiting each time with little suggestive wriggles of her hips and more laughter.

 

Finally we follow the cast into the forest to watch Falstaff’s punishment and discover who Anne finally marries - and reluctantly wave as they take the train and ride off into the distance. 

 

The versatility, energy, talent and dedication of this company are a joy to watch - pure enjoyment from beginning to end.

GUILDFORD
    SHAKESPEARE
        COMPANY
Information and tickets:
01483 304384 OR
www.guildford-shakespeare-company.co.uk