The Merry Wives Of Windsor

My theatre reviewing travels took me this evening to The Maskers Studio Theatre in Shirley, to see William Shakespeare’s Merry Wives Of Windsor.

Merry Wives is the hilarious tale of Sir John Falstaff and the antics that ensue after he attempts to woo two married, middle aged women. This is a fantastic show for any newcomers to the world of Shakespeare, but is also a firm favourite amongst us long term fans.

My star of the show this evening goes wholeheartedly to the show’s main protagonist, and villain, played masterfully by Brian Stansbridge. Brian had a fabulous command of playing dirty old man Falstaff, at times making me forget that I was in the theatre to review as I was lost momentarily in the action and excitement of the play.

Brian had a firm grasp of the text, and was so confidant and vibrant on stage, that I feel he made Shakespeare accessible and enjoyable to both first time viewers, and long time fans.

Other stand outs included Joe Hand as George Page who, even though he was playing a character much older than himself, commanded the stage with such confidence, that I totally forgot that he is in fact a man much younger than the character of Master Page.

Simon Burke played the love lorn Fenton who was on stage very little, but he sprung into action, like a love sick Labrador, and stole all of our hearts along with Anne Page’s.

Neil Maddock was a revelation as heavily Welsh Reverend Hugh Evans. His accent was so solid that he confused this Welsh woman into questioning her own heritage as his accent was stronger than my own! He was also warm, inviting and charismatic.

I also wish to commend João Pinto as French Dr Caius, who was hilarious, smile inducing and all round a hoot to behold on stage. My only advice would be not to lose some of the dialogue behind the strong French accent, as a few phrases were lost; this didn’t stop me from looking forward to his next appearance, however.

There were so many standout performances this evening, that I can’t mention each of the 17 actors by name sadly; my only advice overall would be not to rush through the text, as there was the odd tripping over of lines, however this really didn’t put me off from enjoying the play, and having a jolly good evening.

The show’s direction by Graham Buchanan must also be heavily commended as Merry Wives Of Windsor is not the easiest play to choreograph and direct. With so many characters and a whole host of actors on stage at the same time, it can easily become muddied, woolly and messy, but this evening’s production did not have that happen, and each scene felt like it had a real purpose and drive to it, with even the busier scenes feeling crisp, tight and brilliantly held together by Graham’s direction.

I must confess that Merry Wives Of Windsor is my very favourite Shakespeare play, and I am a bit of a self confessed Shakespeare nerd.

As such I have seen at least a dozen productions of this play, and this was one of the better ones.

The recipe of a great production calls for a good understanding of the text, a strong and well rehearsed cast, a vibrant and lecherous Falstaff, and a director who can really choreograph the play to a tee. The Maskers Theatre Company’s production had ALL of these things, and if you are looking for an evening of fun that is full of antics and thigh slapping humour, then this is the show for you.

The Maskers’ production of Merry Wives Of Windsor runs until this Saturday 22 October.