To conclude the 2019 opening week, Artistic Director Antonio Cimolino put himself in the director’s chair for Shakespeare’s usually riotous tale of two married women who combine their feline talents warding off Windsor’s most titled lecher.
With Geraint Wyn Davies reprising the role of Sir John Falstaff (last seen in these pages in 2011, cross-reference below) this show is an almost guaranteed hit, given the consummate actor’s ability to bring exhilarating life to any part takes on—many would pay top dollar to hear him read the phone book!
The pair of wives are also first rate. Brigit Wilson turns in a savvy, knowing Mrs. Page while Sophia Walker is a spot-on Mrs. Ford, ably bringing Falstaff onto their illicit sheets but never surrendering to his unbridled lust.
Michael Blake makes for a sturdy Mr. Page; Graham Abbey is superb in his twin characterizations of Mr. Ford and the moustachioed Mr. Brook. Playing Sir Hugh Evans, Ben Carlson utilizes his considerable skills, portraying the Welshman who is equally at home in the pulpit or becoming the Pied Piper to the covey of boisterous children whose frequent appearances add a wonderful touch of innocent youth as their elders largely make fools of themselves.
Lucy Peacock puts another feather in her cap-of-many-players, this time as the wily Miss Quickly, while Jamie Mac’s Slender is a delight with every line and gamefully sporting the perpetually ill-fitting wardrobe (designer Julie Fox keeps the eye engaged throughout). Bride-to-be Anne Page (done up with panache by Shruti Kothari), works her feminine magic with a covey of suitors (hilariously, Gordon Miller’s so French Dr. Caius tickled every funny bone in the house) even as Mike Shara brings just the right tenor, tone and unflappable beret as Anne’s true—but longshot—love, Fenton.
For my taste, but certainly not the majority of the patrons, the humour quotient was too broad by half: so much physical comedy produced the expected arrival of The Three Stooges, John Cleese at his silly walk best or even a cameo from Lucille Ball.
An overabundance of farce spoiled the Bard’s biting satire, but a viewing, nonetheless, is still recommended. JWR