Shakespeare's Globe: The Merry Wives of Windsor

Oliver Kurshid, Year 11 student at Kings College School Wimbledon
Sunday, September 1, 2019

A riotous retelling injected with modern twists

Marc Brenner

This Globe production of The Merry Wives of Windsor riotously retells Shakespeare's classic comedy, injecting it with modern twists. Relocated in 1930s Britain, the play is bursting with jazz, swing dance and stylish period costumes which add to the playful, farcical tones of the original text.

The play tells the story of the lecherous John Falstaff (Pearce Quigley) and his unsuccessful attempts to seduce Mistress Ford and Mistress Page (Bryony Hannah and Sarah Finigan). The women seem to be the only characters with any sense, in comparison with the bumbling men. Mistress Ford and Mistress Page direct the narrative with their scheming and wit, ultimately achieving their revenge on Falstaff.

A riotous retelling injected with modern twists

This surprisingly modern message is refreshing and is exemplified by Anne Page (Boadicea Ricketts)'s decision to marry the man of her choice, rather than her parents’ suggestion: a defiant final stand.

Frank Moon's lively jazz score propels the play, injecting scenes and transitions with indisputable energy and vitality. The play culminates with an exuberant swing dance extravaganza in the final few moments, concluding the action on a more cheerful note than the original text.

The production makes effective use of the Globe Theatre, with actors making entrances through the audience, involving us in the action. My first experience at the Globe, I found that the theatre and staging provided a keen insight into how the play might have been originally performed in Elizabethan times, connecting this largely modern production with the play's history.

Supposedly written in two weeks, The Merry Wives of Windsor is often derided by critics as one of Shakespeare's lesser works. Nevertheless, this production makes every e?ort to squeeze comedy from each moment, from Richard Katz's absurd French accent as Doctor Caius to Hedydd Dylan's manic Welsh parson to Quigley's sarcastic Falstaff, who makes frequent asides and ad libs to the audience. Even the silent sketch by Zach Wyatt and Anne Odeke, who wheel Falstaff through the audience in the laundry basket, adds an extra moment of hilarity to the production. While purists may squirm, director Elle While playfully tampers with much of the play's text, modern additions augmenting the comedy of the original play. The farcical gestures, which the actors use to accompany many of the Shakespearean gags, draw out much of the original humour, using explicit actions to highlight double entendres, innuendos and other bawdy references. These careful additions revitalise Shakespeare's language, ensuring its accessibility.

While the plot may not be one of Shakespeare's most riveting, the play makes an undeniably enjoyable night out. With raucous comedy, witty direction and an exuberant design, this production outrageously proves Shakespearean comedies can still be hilarious.