Thursday, 13 December 2018

THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR

THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR
12 December
Barbican
RSC
Directed by Fiona Laird
David Troughton (Falstaff)

Yuletide fare. A warm hearted farce.  The director moved the setting from Windsor to 'Essex', and down a class from middle middle to lower middle, with no great damage. The costumes were a hybrid of Elizabethan ruff and contemporary dull.  In tone there was a Gavin and Stacey air to the whole proceedings (a Dick Emery joke worked its way in for the more senior members of the audience) - or perhaps it was watched over by the spirit of Alison Steadman's most memorable performances, spiced with a touch of Sibyl Fawlty (and even the merest hint of Vicki Pollard).  The action, in commencing, seemed perhaps a little slow, the comedy forced; but it may be that the audience itself needed to become familiar with the characters.  As the evening went on, the play seemed to accelerate, and the laughs became more frequent and more natural.  I personally found it hard to hear many of the actors,  Troughton, Vince Leigh (Master Ford) and most of the women excepted.  I was sorry Karen Fishwick, otherwise perfectly competent as the desirable Ann, allowed the immortal lines "Good mother, do not marry me to yond fool... / I had rather be set quick i' th' earth / And bowled to death with turnips!"  be consumed by business (lying on the floor waving legs), of which there was perhaps a little too much altogether.  The well-known scene in which Falstaff is hidden in a laundry basket - one of Shakespeare's great comic set-pieces - brought the show fully to life, despite there being no laundry basket in evidence.  Instead, both on stage and in the text, there was a filthy wheelie-bin.  Almost the entire play is in prose, so this was quite acceptable, and one imagines WS would not have disapproved.  And anyway, it was very funny.  Troughton gave Falstaff the centre of attention, but it was the Merry Wives themselves who were the stars of the show.  As, presumably, ought to be the case. 

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