mon 14/10/2019

The Merry Wives of Windsor, Shakespeare's Globe review - a gallimaufry of acting styles | reviews, news & interviews

The Merry Wives of Windsor, Shakespeare's Globe review - a gallimaufry of acting styles

The Merry Wives of Windsor, Shakespeare's Globe review - a gallimaufry of acting styles

Theatre's best early sitcom gets plenty of laughs, despite some miscasting

Pearce Quigley's Falstaff attempts to seduce Alice Ford (Bryony Hannah)Both images by Helen Murray

Need Shakespeare 's Falstaff charm to be funny? Those warm, indulgent feelings won by Mrisho Mpoto in the amazing Globe to Globe's Swahili Merry Wives and by Christopher Benjamin in a period-pretty version are rarely encouraged by this season's Helen Schlesinger (in Henry IV Parts One and Two ) and now Pearce Quigley for Ellie While's 1930s romp. Both cut handsome figures with padding, not puddings, in their bellies; Quigly's not-so-fat knight is a tenorial Northerner to whom melancholy seems to come more readily than mirth - sometimes amusing in itself, as in the cued-then-cut laughter of his first interplay with his minions. Nobody else is quite at one with the WIndsor world, and that's a fault; the yearlong ensemble work of the Henry plays shows this up as hit-and-miss comedy with varying levels of projection.

Despite portentous promises in her programme comments, While doesn't deliver on the deeper resonances of the period nor its parallels with the present. There are character-study opportunities for locals in the involvement of Clean Break, London Bubble and the Soldiers' Arts Academy, good opportunity for badinage before the show. Setting and costumes, though (by Charlie Cridlan) are mere window-dressing justified by Frank Moon's score, superbly played by the band up above and bringing coherence to the Windsor forest romp, with fun choreography by Sasha Milavic Davies. By then we're all won over, and since the Globe was made for the mugging and interaction which enliven Shakespeare's earthy sitcom, there's such a lot to enjoy. Jude Okwuso as Ford in Globe Merry Wives of WindsorIf only the Fords didn't throw away so much of the relish to be found in the colloquial text. Jude Okwusu as jealous husband Frank (pictured above) would have better gone for either the note of threat or crazed comedy but occupies an uneasy middle ground; Bryony Hannah's Alice is a crack hand with a whip but the voice itself needs to carry more. Her model in that respect should be Sarah Finigan's brisk, energetic Mistress Page. Sweet Anne Page is feisty and modern as played (and danced) with spirit by Boadicea Ricketts, for whom Zach Wyatt's Fenton seems like a good match.

There are two hostesses, one former, of the Boar's Head Eastcheap now in the service of Dr Caius, Mistress Quickly, the other the lively publican of the Garter Inn Windsor. Anita Reynolds and Anne Odeke ( pictured above with Joshua Lacey's Slender, Dickson Tyrrell's Shallow and Forbes Masson's Page) double the pleasure of the machinations. Caius's ludicrous 'Allo 'Allo French parody is set at just the right level to keep him human by Richard Katz; more Welsh relish would have been welcome from Hedydd Dylan as his schoolmasterly rival Sir Hugh Evans. Why the Page is a mincing catamite I've no idea; couldn't we have had at least one child or teenager on the stage? Shakespeare's Windsor, after all, is as much about breeding as marital virtue. Kids as fairies in the Herne's Oak gulling always add an extra charm, and we miss them here.

Let's not carp ovemuch, though; Quigley's interpolations are shrewd and groan-worthy - as not everyone in the audience will know what an arras is, "elbow" has to be enlisted, with the laugh line looming a mile off - and though Falstaff in the buck-basket isn't very deftly handled, the rolling through the groundling area to a Thames much wider than it is at Windsor and Datchet gives an extra frisson. I went with a newcomer to London who was in a state of uncontainable delight throughout; so the Globe magic still works even when a show isn't absolutely top-notch.

Since the Globe was made for the mugging and interaction which enliven Shakespeare's earthy comedy, there's such a lot to enjoy


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature


A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway


Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.



This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman


Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.


Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.