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The Merry Wives of Windsor

by William Shakespeare

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford upon Avon
29 October 2012 12 January 2013

cast list | article | reviews | photographs | flyer
 


 
Cast List
 
Desmond Barrit
Sir John Falstaff 
David Charles 
Sir Hugh Evans 
Anita Dobson
Mistress Quickly
Paapa Essiedu
Fenton
Calum Finlay
Abraham Slender
Alexandra Gilbreath
Alice Ford
Stephen Harper
Bardolph
Martin Hyder
George Page
Julia Innocenti
Neighbour
Ansu Kabia
Nim
Sylvestra Le Touzel
Meg Page
Carla Mendonca
Neighbour
Thomas Pickles
Peter Simple
John Ramm
Frank Ford
Naomi Sheldon
Ann Page
Ged Simmons
Pistol
Bart David Soroczynski
Dr Caius
David Sterne
Justice Shallow
Simeon Truby
Host of the Garter
Obioma Ugoala
Jack Rugby
 
Directed by Phillip Breen
Designed by Max Jones
Lighting by Tina MacHugh
Music composed by Paddy Cunneen
Sound by Simon Baker
Movement by Ayse Tashkiran
Fights by Renny Krupinski
Assistant Director
Edward Stambollouian
 
 


 
Interview with the Birmingham Post
 
 
Trailer

 
Act 2 Scene 2


Vox pops

 


 

Best Shakespeare productions: The Merry Wives of Windsor
by Michael Billington, The Guardian, 15 April 2014
 

I've always had a soft spot for this play. Long patronised by academics, it's Shakespeare's only purely English comedy, pins down middle-class mores to perfection and almost always works in the theatre. It also yielded one of Verdi's greatest operas.
 
Two productions I remember chiefly for portrayals of the manically jealous Ford. In Terry Hands's 1968 production, Ian Richardson looked, as one critic said, "as if he were being bounced on a trampoline". In a 1979 version by Trevor Nunn and John Caird, Ben Kingsley was like some permanently erupting Thames Valley Othello. But the production that did most to change our perspective was the 1985 production by Bill Alexander, which set the action in a recognisable 1950s world, with Lindsay Duncan and Janet Dale as the witty wives seen plotting under the hairdryer. Peter Jeffrey was a raffish, and faintly RAF-ish, Falstaff.
 
That set the tone for a series of updated versions, of which my favourite was, easily, the most recent. In 2012, Phillip Breen came up with a joyous Stratford production set in a sharply defined modern Windsor-on-Avon. Desmond Barrit was a magnificent Falstaff, seen disco-dancing at one point to the strains of Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On. Alexandra Gilbreath as, in Libby Purves's choice phrase, "a yummy-mummy Mistress Ford in tight jeans" and Sylvestra le Touzel as a sensible, green-wellied Meg Page were both spot on. John Ramm's Ford, venomously hissing into an empty buck-basket, was a model of middle-class delusion. Why, I wonder, was this glorious production never seen again?
 
 

Extract from an article by Prof Carol Rutter, ‘Shakespeare Performances in England 2013’, Shakespeare Survey 67, October 2014
 
Mid January. I'm sitting on a train headed for London; opposite me, a colleague who sees almost as much Shakespeare in a year as I do.  We're nattering about the 'state of the art'.  He says he's fed up to the back teeth with 'event' Shakespeare. 'Event' Shakespeare? The kind of theatre he thinks we had too much of last year, productions aimed at some 'event' or other – 'Globe to Globe'; the 'World Shakespeare Festival'; both attached to the London Olympics — where the 'event' seemed to be what was driving and defining and selecting the Shakespeare on offer, rather than the creative energy and imagination of actors and directors and designers. The result for spectators was a number of productions that frequently didn't work on their own terms, productions that didn't have to work on their own terms, but only as bits and pieces fitting up the conceit of the big corporate project. He longs, he says wistfully, for productions that give us a whole vision of a play, the kind of Shakespeare that was standard at the RSC back in ... (the date he offers is firmly in the last century).  I say I saw a few 'whole vision' productions last year; most of them, it has to be said, independent of the frenzied corporate 'event'-making.  A couple of them, it's true, had been officially 'umbrella-ed' by the sponsor but remained cockily resistant to wearing the corporate logo. Still, I take his point. We sit in silence.  We gaze at each other's feet, considering the bottoms of our trousers, wondering if it's time we started wearing them rolled. Maybe we're just a couple of Prufrocks. 
 
By the time we hit Marylebone, though, we've cheered up.  We're going to the theatre, and for both of us, no matter how often we do it, nothing can take the shine off that statement: 'We're going to the theatre.'  In 'post-event' Britain, we're eager to see how the personnel changes announced last year (new artistic directors at the RSC, the Royal Court, the Donmar, the Almeida) are panning out. Six months earlier, back in July, we'd first been excited by the headline in the Guardian (then deflated by the article that followed) announcing that 'Michael Boyd's last RSC season' would be a 'celebration of women in theatre', because that 'huzzah-huzzah!' moment was instantly wrecked when Boyd admitted to the arts correspondent in the interview that it was — ummm, errrh, only 'by accident' that Lucy Bailey, Maria Aberg, Nancy Meckler, Emma Rice and Lyndsey Turner would all be directing at the RSC in the coming season.  So this 'celebration of women': it wasn't 'a conscious piece of positive action'?  (Boyd: why not keep your mouth shut and pretend it was?) Still, he opined, it was 'great that we are doing something about it with a concentration and intensity that is new for the RSC.'  You had to wonder about the elusive referent. 'It'?  Positive action? Sexism in the theatre? Limited opportunities, historically, for women directing Shakespeare? Fair enough, you can put Boyd's apparent wooliness down to poor transcription of an interview. But what excuse can be made for the jaw-dropping implications of his (apparently serious) statement that  'doing something about it' was 'new' for the RSC?  (Boyd put me in mind of those serio-comic scene captions announcing staggering revelations in Brecht's Galileo: 'December 1606, Galileo abolishes heaven.' So it's official, 'July 2012, RSC boss discovers gender disparity'. Just when he's on his way out the stage door. And about a decade after others have started seriously addressing it.)
 
Boyd's gaffes aside, my colleague and I know, as we stride through Covent Garden on that Saturday in January, that we're headed into a year (launched today, as we arrive at the Donmar where Harriet Walter is playing Brutus, and Frances de la Tour, Caesar) that is going to give women plenty of opportunities not just to act, direct, design and compose Shakespeare but to run theatres where Shakespeare is produced, as artistic directors and administrators.  We're headed into a year in which gender will be constantly investigated, interrogated, performed and re-performed. I'll see all-women productions of Caesar (directed by a woman) and Shrew (directed by a man); also all-male productions of Shrew and Twelfth Night (directed by men).  I'll see gender-neutral puppets performing in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and a hilariously 'feminist' ending to The Two Gentlemen of Verona that will leave all the men standing around empty handed and gormlessly gawping.  And I'll see what I'll come to think of as a 'post-racial' Othello, an Othello that understands the profound trauma of that play to be nothing so superficial as skin colour, but rather, located in masculinity, in deep-structural homo-phobia, men hating men, and using women to kill them: a tragedy constructed around gender, then, not race.  We're headed into a year where I'll be gender blind as I'm assessing the work of directors, not least because (Michael Boyd's late learning aside) it's no longer 'news' in most quarters that powerful women are directing Shakespeare, and succeeding and failing just like the boys. 
  

COMEDIES

 
You know that feeling your get, half way down the first page of a new novel when you realise you're in the safe hands of a master and you'll go wherever the writing takes you? I get it sometimes in the theatre.  Case in point: Phillip Breen's The Merry Wives of Windsor at the RST.  It was the jack'o'lantern that did it: burning in the upstairs window of the otherwise dark, timber-framed Tudor house whose facade, covered in autumn-turning Virginia creeper, stretched the width of the platform stage. The grin on the pumpkin told me this production knew where it was going: to keep an appointment at Herne's oak, via guisings and disguisings, menacing tricks and bitter treats, oofs and oafs and humiliating 'outings'; no twee, self-satisfied costume drama (Globe, 2008) or romping wannabe musical in ruffs and farthingales (RSC, 2006), but an edgy look at contemporary middle class marriage and the (disappointed) games people play; at the male imaginary (in self-delusional mode); making close-to-the-bone jokes about sex, money, and funny foreigners; written in (mostly) prose that smuggles in so much sedition between the lines that you could take it for a late-Elizabethan samiszdat. Breen's production took Shakespeare's play seriously. This Wives was revenge comedy, his 'merry' wives placed just short of 'merry', ax-wielding Clytemnestra.
 
Teamed up with Breen, Max Jones set this story today, in Windsor-upon-Avon, in autumn 2012, post-Jubilee, post-Olympics, a time for reckoning costs and settling accounts, his brilliantly observed design giving us a series of locations that zoomed from close-up into long shot and back again.  The Tudor housefront (home to the well-heeled, well-settled, not to say terminally domestic, Pages) flew out to reveal a long view of a rugby pitch (where we saw in the foreground Meg Page receiving a letter). When the goal posts sailed out, the kitsch interior of 'ye olde' Garter public house rolled into view (decorating the lighting grid over the snooker table, numbers of stag's antlers, trophies of male environmental domination or ironic signifiers of man's horned destiny; on the table itself, another bloated beast, Falstaff asleep) to be replaced by the clinical waiting room of Dr. Caius's practice, the ultra-modern Vogue-designed glass-and-white carpet living room of the nouveaux riche (and childless) Fords, the low lying distant vistas of foggy Frogmore, the tawdry garret flat over the bar at the Garter where Falstaff lodged (his single battered suitcase shoved under an iron bedstead whose mattress looked like it had rescued from a dosser's life on the streets), and the final mock-gothic horror-scape of Herne's blighted oak.  
 
The folk who inhabited these locations were recognisable County types, played just short of caricature.  Page and Ford (Martin Hyder, John Ramm), near enough twins who'd prove two sides of the same male supremacist coin, were balding boys in short trousers, Saturday morning rugger-buggers (who needed their wives to solve the mystery of how to get the top off the beer cooler). Falstaff (Desmond Barritt) was a worn out chancer, a geriatric city lad who appeared to have spent the last of Shallow's £1000 (borrowed in the dying moments of 2 Henry IV) buying up sale racks of loud tweeds (so last century!), remaindered on Savile Row, to look the part among the Shire locals. A conspicuous mistake. Parson Evans (David Charles) was a weedy, reedy-voiced Welshman in a slack cardigan who arrived for his assignation with Dr Caius wobbling into view on his bicycle, his rapier stowed the length of the cross bar, while Caius (Bart Soroczynski), physician to the toffs who held clinics in formal dress, was in the full fencing rig-out of the French Olympic team, doing one hand press ups for warm up. Slender (Calum Findlay) was as a hapless a tangle of earnest arm-swinging idiocy as you'd meet in any Sixth Form car park, batting chat-up lines wide or into the net; Anne (Naomi Sheldon), still in school uniform, a lass who'd slip out her front door for a quick fag and a snog with her banned boyfriend, Fenton (Paapa Essiedu); Mrs Quickly (Anita Dobson), awed by aristos, like a pigeon pecking popcorn in Trafalgar Square, bobbed and curtseyed every time she mentioned 'Sir John', and wore a smile as professionally bright as her pencil skirts were tight. 
 
And then there were the wives — the stars of this production. Sylvestra le Touzel's Burberry-and-Barbour Meg Page was as solid and sensible, watching the rugby in green gum boots and head scarf, as her vulgarian friend Alice (Alexandra Gilbreath) was ditzy in high-heeled Hunters. (It was typical, when they showed up for the trick-or-treating at Herne's oak, that Alice would be dressed as a cunning little vixen, Meg, as Bambi's mother.) Both were 50-somethings; both, 'missing out on somethings'. le Touzel's Meg was first girlishly flattered ('What, have I 'scaped love-letters in the holiday time of my beauty, and am I now a subject for them?') then, her brief flirtation with 'something else' humiliated, outraged at Falstaff's billet doux. Gilbreath's constitutionally suggestive Alice, the kind of woman men call a 'go-er', was nevertheless instantly steeled to 'be revenged' on 'the whale' tossed 'with so many tuns of oil in his belly, ashore at Windsor' with a plot that very nearly did fan the 'wicked fire' of the old lecher's lust so hot that he 'melted ... in his own grease'.  Chez Ford, with Meg in the wings, Alice played wiggle-bum seductress in leopard print leggings to a goggle-eyed, sweating Falstaff whom she forced to frolic (more sweat) to Marvin Gaye's 'Let's Get It On' before Meg dashed out of hiding — and took pity on the now very greasy knight by dumping him in the buck-basket.
 
There was never any question but that the women were in charge in Breen's Windsor and would expose the jealous husband with as much wicked glee as they'd out the fantasist seducer.  (This Alice would sit blandly sucking chocolates from the cheap Cadbury's selection box Falstaff had brought, eating the evidence, while her husband pawed manically through a buck-basket full of dirty knickers, searching for the lover he knew must be hiding among his wife's smalls.) But what was staggering, as both the wives and we pondered the need for their efforts, was that both the prospective cuckolder and the prospective cuckolded expected the same outcome. Both operated from the same 'knowledge': that the women would be corrupted. (And if Page didn't, it was only because he thought the hey-day in his wife's blood no longer heat-able:  'my wife is not young').  Men in this play imagine themselves the masters of language: a delicious joke, given the dubious performance of little William's Latin lesson and the amount of 'ranting',  'drawling', 'affecting', and 'hacking' of language that goes on as English, French and Welsh alike 'fright [ ] English out of his wits'. Falstaff is sure he can read Meg Page like a book: that he can 'construe ... her familiar style' and 'English [ ] her rightly' to 'spy entertainment'. Ford reads out of the same misogynist textbook:  'This 'tis to be married. This 'tis to have linen and buck-baskets': 'my wife ... plots ... ruminates ... devises'; and what women 'think in their hearts they may effect, they will break their hearts but they will effect'.
 
How dreary for this 'reading' to be current in 2012.  How even drearier, in 2012, to be one of these men, trapped in the residual, persistent imaginary that Breen's production showed to be still current. Two of the most woeful images performance produced here were Barrit's Falstaff, contemplative predator, cranking up the charm for one more sting, perched on the edge of his bed, holding up to his girth what he'd pulled out of his suitcase, a pair of seducer-ware boxer shorts that he clearly hadn't worn since the days when he was an 'eagle's talon in the waist', and could only see the fit of now by flashing a mirror at his groin (how micro his 'yard'; how macro his belly); and Ramm's Ford, who'd earlier bounced like a demented rooster around his own living room crowing 'Buck? ... buck! Buck buck buck!', later at the Garter, in a fit of insane hyperactivity, snapping a snooker cue as he ranted about linen and buck-baskets, that he clapped to head: turning himself into a horned monster. The stag on the wall didn't bat an eye. Fortunately, this production offered the antidote to toxic male delusion: Alice's laughter (Gilbreath has one of the lewdest laughs in the business), and Meg's brains (le Touzel: what an intelligent actor!).
 
Jones's multiple scene changes gave us a whole social world in Breen's Wives. Working on the same stage at the RSC designing Lucy Bailey's The Winter's Tale, William Dudley produced only two locations, but these were hardly conventional re-imaginings of the play's shifts from Sicilia to Bohemia and back again.  


 
Reviews


The Guardian
by Michael Billington
 
Shakespeare's great revenge comedy gains immeasurably from being staged in modern dress. But, while other directors have opted for the materialistic 1950s, Phillip Breen's excellent new production offers us a totally up-to-date version of Windsor-on-Avon: a world where cosy country suppers coexist with buried, middle-class rage
 
Breen and designer Max Jones make every scene rivetingly specific. Ford and Page, whose wives Falstaff sets out to seduce, are a couple of ageing rugger-buggers who meet up at the end of a match: there is also a clear distinction between Alexandra Gilbreath's saucy, snazzily clad Alice Ford and Sylvestra Le Touzel's sensible, green-wellied Meg Page. Even the Garter Inn becomes a recognisably modern pub which, in the course of an obscure hoax, stages a German weekend with the host kitted out in Bavarian lederhosen. Only the climactic scene in Windsor Forest, with Falstaff disguised as Herne the Hunter, seems to belong to the first, rather than the second, Elizabethan age.
 
But that matters little since Breen has assembled an exceptionally strong cast. Desmond Barrit has now made Falstaff very much his own and invests him with a tattered dignity and immense sexual vanity: left alone, he constantly holds a mirror up to nature in the form of his private parts. John Ramm is also the funniest Ford since Ben Kingsley: his jealousy leads him into a gleaming mania, as when he hisses venomously at a totally empty buck-basket in which he thinks Falstaff is secreted, yet there is also an edge of pathos to his delusion. And Anita Dobson makes Mistress Quickly a totally believable housekeeper, afflicted by a terrifying deference to her alleged superiors.
 
Class lies at the heart of this comedy; and, while racking up the laughs, Breen brings out beautifully the bourgeois sadism that still lurks in the heart of middle England. 
 
 

The Daily Telegraph 
by Charles Spencer
 
Critics and scholars tend to be a bit snooty about The Merry Wives of Windsor. Falstaff, they suggest, isn’t quite the inspired comic creation he was in the two parts of Henry IV, while the play itself is hardly one of Shakespeare’s greatest.
 
Yet it is tremendously enjoyable and in its way as startling as Shakespeare’s more profound and poetic dramas. For in this warm and affectionate piece, largely written in prose and featuring an insanely jealous husband, funny foreigners and unorthodox use of a laundry basket, Shakespeare surely created the template of situation comedy as we know it today.
 
This is also a play in which Shakespeare seems to be writing about his own provincial roots. He even includes a mischievous schoolboy called William, presumably a sly portrait of his younger self.
 
Watching Phillip Breen’s delightful new production, set in 2012 in a town that might best be described as Windsor-upon-Avon, there are passages that put one in mind of such TV classics as Fawlty Towers and The Good Life.
 
The production has been wittily designed by Max Jones, and features a Citroën 2CV pootling round the stage and a cosy English pub in which Falstaff is discovered sleeping on the pool table after a heavy night.
 
Desmond Barrit might have been placed on this earth by a benevolent deity to play Falstaff, and is doing so yet again here. Just the sight of his vast bulk in a hairy tweed suit, looking like Billy Bunter in dissipated late middle-age, makes you smile. Meanwhile, his conceited lasciviousness as he sets about seducing the titular wives for their cash, little suspecting that they are far savvier than he is, proves a comic joy.
 
The scene in which this deluded sexual adventurer disco-dances towards Mistress Ford to the lubricious strains of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get it On, proffering a box of Roses chocolates as if it were a Fabergé egg, is cryingly funny, as is his self-pitying litany of complaint after being bundled into a dirty laundry basket and dumped in the Thames. But Barrit is touching, too, poignantly capturing a man who knows he is running out of money and time, and in the closing moments he finally seems to have acquired rueful self-knowledge.
 
There are also excellent supporting performances. The nerdish, grating-voiced John Ramm proves deliriously wired and desperate as Frank Ford, driven to the very brink of insanity by his jealous suspicion of his wife’s infidelity. And I know of no actor who can get more comic mileage out of an ill-fitting wig.
 
Meanwhile, Sylvestra Le Touzel and Alexandra Gilbreath make an irresistible double-act as the wives, the former apparently prim and proper but with a lovely edge of wit, the latter a lithe and sexy mischief-maker with a touch of Essex Woman vulgarity. Anita Dobson is also in endearing form as the match-making Mistress Quickly.
 
It’s an uproariously enjoyable evening and I recommend it highly. 
 
 
And a blog from film critic Scott Jordan Harris on the Telegraph Website:
 

Merry Wives of Windsor is Shakespeare’s sitcom. In fact, it’s his sitcom spin-off. Legend tell us that Elizabeth I was so amused by the character of Sir John Falstaff in Henry IV Parts I and II that she insisted he be brought back, and made to fall in love, in another play.
 
The parallels between Merry Wives and a TV sitcom are many and strong, and the RSC’s current production plays on them perfectly. Sir John is given such a build up in the minutes before he appears that, when he does, one almost expects him to be greeted with whooping and applause, like the favourite character in an American sitcom filmed before a live studio audience. In Shakespeare’s time, of course, he probably would have been.
 
Phillip Breen has set his production now, in November 2012, which only reinforces the sitcom similarities. The setting of two houses and a pub populated by two middle-class families caught up in silly secret plots positively screams sitcom, as does much of the characterisation.
 
Sylvestra Le Touzel as Mistress Page, for example, will remind many of Patricia Hodge as the mother in Miranda and may indeed have been modelled expressly on her. Most sitcom-ish of all is Desmond Barrit’s glorious Falstaff, who is at once Rab C. Nesbitt and Frasier Crane, Del Boy Trotter and Homer Simpson.
 
The result of this is that the production, even for those who have never read the play, is funny and familiar throughout. And the result of this is that it is not only a production I suggest everyone goes to see but also one to which I urge them to take children.
 
Scan any RSC audience and you will spot pairs of stern-faced middle-class parents inflicting an improving experience on their children. I have been to excellent productions of King Lear and Richard III that were, despite their quality, in no sense suitable for children. The eleven-year-old Lionels and Charlottes who were dragged to them deserved medals for returning after the intervals.
 
My experience of Shakespeare in schools, too, suggests an over-reliance on the histories and tragedies as the first Shakespeare plays to which children are ever properly exposed. But the histories and tragedies that thrill us so much in adulthood are the Shakespeare plays for which we need to develop our palates.
 
The comedies, if played as they should be (which is to say as funnily as possibly), are the treats that can be enjoyed by almost anyone old enough to sit still during them. They can hook a child on Shakespeare for life.
 
There is so much of our favourite sitcoms in Breen’s Merry Wives of Windsor that watching it would reveal to children how much of Shakespeare there is in our favourite sitcoms. And, meanwhile, it would make them laugh about farting, falling in rivers, erections and parents who may be remarkably like their own.
 
Had I any children in my family who were above the age at which Peppa Pig is the best and funniest of all entertainments, I would take them toMerry Wives at the RSC as quickly as I could secure more tickets. And years later, I’d bet, they’d thank me for it.
 
 

London Evening Standard 
by Fiona Mountford

Gregory Doran has taken over at the helm of the RSC, but we have to wait until next week for his directorial debut in the role. For now we can enjoy Shakespeare’s larkiest comedy written, so it is alleged, at the express request of Elizabeth I. Her wish was to see Sir John Falstaff, the jovial fat knight of the Henry IV plays, ‘in love’. If he doesn’t quite manage this, he’s certainly in a lot of other things here, debt, a laundry basket and the Thames among them.
 
Phillip Breen’s stylish modern-dress production takes us to a well-heeled village, a cleverly sketched place of Boden clothing, Hunter wellies and attractive houses with lit pumpkins in the window. Yet Sir John (that fine actor Desmond Barrit, a butterball figure in a three-piece tweed suit) is, as ever, impecunious and thus hits on a scheme to woo two wealthy Windsor wives, Mistress Page (Sylvestra Le Touzel) and Mistress Ford (Alexandra Gilbreath). Once the ladies discover the ruse, they are hell-bent on revenge, aided by Anita Dobson as the meddling Mistress Quickly.
 
There’s a lot of well-staged faffing-about, mostly involving the slightly insalubrious chasing of the almost wordless young Anne Page by suitors far too old for her, before we reach the play’s centrepiece and joy: the mistresses’ intricate three-part gulling of Falstaff. Gilbreath, Le Touzel and Barrit are an unending delight to watch together and it’s fascinating to witness the subtly developing character delineations of the women. Mistress Ford is a slinky minx whose jealous husband (nice work, John Ramm) desires her with a passion, whereas Mistress Page, a jolly rugby mother, is stuck in an affable yet loveless marriage. Barrit has a marvellous air of wounded dignity, displayed to perfection in an atmospheric forest finale.
 
 

The Sunday Times
by David Jays
 
CRITICAL LISTTHE BEST OF WHAT'S ON THIS WEEK
Now here's a squeezed middle. Falstaff lumbers into well-off Windsor with no visible means beyond a self regard as inflated as his belly. His business plan is seduction, pimping himself as the housewives choice. Desmond Barrit, gloriously spoken and encased in a yardage of tweed, makes him an innocent booby who forgets that you don't mess with middle England. Sylvestra Le Touzel's ferociously sensible Meg Page is appalled to discover that she and her friend Alice Ford have received identical love letters. Their feigned response, served with lashings of Marvin Gaye, humiliates falstaff and winds up Alice's jealous husband something rotten (John Ramm quivers like Rambo with a badminton racquet). Phillip Breen's intelligent, richly entertaining modern dress show understands that, uniquely in Shakespeare, what's at stake isn't wild romance, power or death. It's simple hard won happiness.
 
 

Daily Express 
by
Neil Norman
 
Any production of Shakespeare's least amusing comedy that concludes with Superman, the Incredible Hulk, and a scythe wielding Welsh-accented Death has got to have something going for it. And Phillip Breen's scintillating production has more than enough to burnish the the antique humour to the brightness of a newly minted coin.
 
Conceived as a '70s sit-com [or Windsor 2012 - ed.], this rarely puts a foot wrong. The concept complements the text in constantly surprising ways. When the lovestruck Fenton - deemed too lowly to be a match for the daughter of the wealthy Page family - recalls his 'riots past', the fact that Fenton (Paapa Essiedu) is black reverberates in an entirely 20th [or 21st - ed.] century manner.
 
The prospect of a mixed race marriage also emphasises the bigotry and hypocrisy of the petit bourgeoise as they plot and plan and arrange marriages. And when Falstaff arrives at the first assignation, he produces a box of Roses chocolates. As Falstaff, Desmond Barrit - an overweight dandified roue in a tweed suit and and silk pocket handkerchief. While he may be outwitted by his two female targets, Meg Page (Sylvestra Le Touzel) and Alice Ford (Alexandra Gilbreath), he manages to retain a shredded dignity by sheer force of personality. 
 
Anita Dobson takes her role as Mistress Quickly literally, tottering across the stage on high heels with ankle breaking speed. But the hardest working actor on the stage is John Ramm, one half of the National Theatre of Brent. As the uber jealous Frank Ford he packs more expression in to a single sentence that most actors do in a soliloquy.
 
The stage is constantly moving as rugby posts descend, a local pub is converted in to a bierkeller for a German theme night and the characters rise up out of the sitting at desks or on cushions.
 
There is very little point digging too deep for hidden subtexts [there is - ed.] in a play that was was written to order for Elizabeth I just because she wanted to see Sir John Falstaff in love. And even then Shakespeare wasn't as obedient as he might have been. The principal object of the fat knight's affections is ultimately himself. But for all the humiliation heaped on him to thwart his vainglorious schemes, he is a lovable rogue. And in spite of conceptual tweaks, this production keeps its eye firmly on the comedy target. I can even forgive it the joke about wind.  
 
 

Daily Mail 
by Patrick Marmion
 
Who knew that posh provincial housewives could be this much fun? The RSC’s modern revival of Shakespeare’s farce introduces us to a gaggle of society birds who’d liven up any knees-up.
 
Foremost is Alexandra Gilbreath as the sexy, sassy Mistress Ford. She fakes the seduction of the notoriously boozy man-mountain, Jack Falstaff, after she and her best friend Mistress Page receive love letters from the fat old lech. In high-heeled wellies, spray-on leggings and loose chemise, she leads Falstaff up her garden path. Sylvestra Le Touzel has a whale of a time as Page. And completing the triple act is Anita Dobson as Mistress Quickly.
 
For once, men take the back seat. But John Ramm is a tower of Fawlty-esque fury as Gilbreath’s jealous husband, and Martin Hyder, as Le Touzel’s other half, is a classic useless hubby. The only quibble is Desmond Barrit’s Falstaff (pictured with Gilbreath), who although wonderfully adorned in garish tweeds and orthopaedic shoes, isn’t especially lascivious.
 
It’s hard, however, to impeach Phillip Breen’s production, set in the heart of heritage England.  Breen also mixes in ladies’ musical favourites like Elton John and can’t resist including The Archers’ theme tune. At three hours, it’s too long. But RSC law forbids tampering with Holy Shakespearean Writ. In the end, all that matters is that these very merry wives come out joyfully on top. 
 
 
The Morning Star 
by Gordon Parsons
 
Legend has it that Queen Liz I, possibly tiring of the Bard's heavyweight histories and romantic comedies, demanded lighter fare featuring Shakespeare's fat knight Falstaff from the Henry plays.
 
Shakespeare obliged with a rollicking farce but one that characteristically obliquely exposed class and gender issues of contemporary bourgeois society.
 
Falstaff, played by Desmond Barrit (pictured), takes time off from the tavern frolics with the heir to the throne in Henry IV part 1 and finds himself playing hopeful games with the wives of the burghers of Windsor, transmogrified here into the Home Counties sporty set.
 
Director Phillip Breen milks every comic gag in this fast-moving knock-about scenario, focusing on the painful tricks played on the superannuated roue. Stock characters, foolish foreigners who comically mangle the English language and a sub-plot of young lovers frustrating parental wishes, all go into the mix.
 
Alexandra Gilbreath's Mistress Ford and Sylvestra Le Touzel's Mistress Page pursue their humiliating punishment of Barrit's blubbery would-be Casanova with feminist zeal, vowing to 'exhibit a bill in the parliament for the putting down of men.' John Ramm as the manically jealous Ford also gets his comeuppance.
 
If finally the play runs into the sand in the fanciful midnight forest plot - a kind of comic masque involving pretend fairies and fiends - to punish a by now pathetic Falstaff, that's down mainly to the playwright having no modern inhibitions in mixing farce with fancy.
 
A seasonal offering to brighten the dark days. 
 
 

Birmingham Mail 
by Marion McMullan
 
Super-sized Falstaff offers super-sized fun as he turns sexy seducer.
 
He’s out to sweep the rich housewives of the town off their feet, but they are wise to his plot and decide to have some fun of their own.
 
Royal Shakespeare Company favourite Desmond Barrit is back and sets the comedy bar high as heavyweight would-be lover Sir John Falstaff. He’s sexy and he knows it as he decides wooing the ladies is a great way of solving his money woes.
 
The result is belly laughs galore as he finds himself trying to dodge an insanely jealous husband while trying to bed the pretty wives of Windsor.
 
The comedy inhabits a Stratford-inspired set with Anita Dobson making her RSC debut in style as the ever-helpful doctor’s receptionist Mistress Quickly.
 
Alexandra Gilbreath is sexy and sassy as an Only Way Is Essex-like Alice Ford while Sylvestra Le Touzel adds to the fun as Meg Page.
 
They lead Falstaff a merry dance in director Phillip Breen’s lively production and the result is comedy magic.
 
Underwear goes flying across the stage, Falstaff dares all in his quest for money and Bart David Soroczynski shines as the heavily accented, sword-waving French physician Dr Caius.
 
A merry night guaranteed.
 
 
Stratford Herald
by Sandy Holt
 
As good luck would have it, the Royal Shakespeare Company has pulled out a trump card with its latest production of The Merry Wives of Windsor in the form of director Phillip Breen.
 
For this bright young creator knows the play is all about comedy, and his attention to detail makes this rollicking romp a triumph.
 
The play is often cast aside by scholars as not one of his greatest works, but Breen’s interpretation brings out the best of Shakespeare’s words with a modern-day take.
 
A set of versatile backdrops, telephone boxes, rugby pitches, modern barn conversions and a quaintly modern Tudor pub with a pool table sets the scene and brings this play bang up to date in a current day Windsor reminiscent of Stratford. Designer Max Jones certainly had his work cut out to create so many different interiors, but attention to technical detail (the downside of which was the cancellation of three preview performances) paid off.
 
The production boasts a fine cast, with Desmond Barrit the pivotal force. It almost seems as if Barrit was born to play Falstaff, his larger-than-life, tweed-clad, bumbling seducer prompting plenty of belly-laughs. And Anita Dobson’s efficient yet slightly ditsy Mistress Quickly was perfectly pitched as the match-making housekeeper. But it was Alexandra Gilbreath’s sex-kitten approach as Alice Ford that stole the female limelight, and she grabbed every available laugh as she pursed her lips and wiggled her pert bum at her oversized admirer. In contrast, the yuppy green-wellied Meg Page, played beautifully straight by Sylvestra le Touzel, provided Gilbreath with the perfect partner in crime. These two bounced off each other with such comic timing that one could almost imagine them having their own sketch show.
 
John Ramm proved another such casting treasure as the jealous husband, Frank Ford, who milked the dodgy wig joke with great comic effect.
 
Other great performances from the remaining supporting ensemble complementing the near faultless show. The only slight oddity was the appearance of Dr Caius’s dustbin of a car—a 2CV. One couldn’t help thinking a man of his standing would have gone for something a little more upmarket.
 
All in all, there are poignant undertones, but this is truly comedy at its finest.
 
 
The Birmingham Press
by Richard Lutz
 
This is an almost perfect production and it would be a sad person indeed who could pick it apart.
 
Word on the mean streets of Shakepeare-land (meaning myth and rumour) is that back in about 1597 or so, Elizabeth I was so enamoured with the Falstaff figure in the history plays that she commanded a comic romp for the old boy to be produced at her court in a fortnight’s time.
 
Shakespeare must have rolled his eyes, uttered an oath, sucked in his breathe and went through about 3 dozen quills and a couple of Tudor iPads and banged out Merry Wives of Windsor. When the queen wants something, you deliver.
 
Anyway, that’s the story. Who knows the real root of this play.
 
The author’s older Falstaff is a madcap lech and permanent drunk wallowing in self delusion. He convinces himself into thinking every housewife in this provincial town is dying to jump into the sack and put her arms around his grubby girth.
 
His saving grace is his articulate wit. He is funny, about himself, drinking, women, his pals. Shakespeare must have had a ball writing this stuff.
 
Anyway, in this precursor to many a tv sitcom, Falstaff writes twin love letters to a pair of yummy mummies whose husbands are either down the pub or at the rugby club. They are both shocked and twinked by the fat knight’s grubby billets a deux and decide to outsmart him.
 
And that’s about it really. No villains, no angst, no mythical lovers in a mythical wood. All very suburban with Mrs Ford living in one of those Warwickshire barn conversions and Falstaff’s local resembling an Olde Worlde carvery.
 
Director Phillip Breen has slapped his production deep into the heart of smug, proper modern suburbia- the suburbia of Solihull in Birmingham, Scarsdale in New York, Surrey in the Home Counties… of Stratford and South Warwickshire in fact.
 
Desmond Barrit was Falstaff in this history plays for the RSC. And he continues as the delightful obese slob here in great form. The cheeky merry housewives of Windsor, Mrs Ford and Mrs Page, played respectively by Alexandra Gilbreath and Sylvestra Le Touzel, gloriously gab away as they spin Falstaff in plot after plot landing him either in a basket of dirty laundry, dressed as a gyspy-ish veiled witch or with horns on his head in a midnight wood.
 
Hats off also to Anita Dobson, she of EastEnders, as Mistress Quickly, all a bundle of nerves and knowing asides as she plays the never ending scurrying go-between.
 
The women are all sharp as tacks, alert and funny; the men all panicky, twitchy, tiny minded. Shakespeare always could write good female roles.
 
Director Breen gets the self satisfied British suburban mindset bang on, the set is perfect (down to the Virginia Creeper sliding up the mock Tudor mansions) and, as for the costumes- well pure middle class rugby club. As it should be.
 
 
Bromsgrove Advertiser
by Allan Wallcroft
 
Setting Shakespeare’s scintillating 16th-century farce in the present day – Windsor in 2012 – is a master stroke which makes this uproarious production a complete winner for all.
 
It’s an absolute cracker for both audience and cast with its gradual build towards a barnstorming finale with truly memorable performances dotted throughout. So it’s hats off to director Phillip Breen who has ensured this production fizzes and pops in all the right places and at the right times with the help of the modern gadgets we so take for granted today.
 
Outstanding throughout was Desmond Barrit with his brilliantly comic portrayal of the vain and hugely over-sized Sir John Falstaff – echoes here of the late Peter Sellers in some of his iconic roles (in my mind’s eye I could picture a Mafia mobster in a lift – a famous scene). He’s an RSC old-hand while Anita Dobson – forever linked with television’s EastEnders – is one of several cast members in their debut season with the world famous company. And what a storming start she made as Mistress Quickly – the go-between in this battle of the sexes. Exquisite timing induced much laughter.
 
Particularly eye-catching too was a twinkly provocative and vampish Alice Ford, played by Alexandra Gilbreath - especially in the scenes with would-be-seducer Falstaff.
 
Meg Page (Sylvestra Le Touzel) provides excellent support as her fun-loving co-conspirator and partner in revenge after they had received identical ‘love letters’. They believe Falstaff has many, as Mistress Page points out: ‘I warrant he hath a thousand of these letters, writ with blank spaces for different names’.
 
And here revenge is sought more in fun than absolute retaliation or punishment.
 
Other performances to enjoy were provided by Bart David Soroczynski’s crazy French Dr Caius, who wouldn’t have been out of place in ‘Allo ‘Allo!, and John Ramm, as the ‘wronged’ Frank Ford, who was involved in caper chases reminiscent of the Keystone Kops. Once as Falstaff initially escaped discovery hidden in a wicker laundry basket full of dirty clothes via the Thames! And then hilariously dressed as the Fat Lady of Brentford...
 
Stephen Harper’s timing and audience involvement as the drunken Bardolph – one of a rowdy trio outraging Windsor society with their bad behaviour – was a delight to behold and David Charles also impressed as the not-to-be-taken seriously Welsh parson, Sir Hugh Evans. But it is a production in which everyone is at the top of their game right through to the children in the haunted wood finale – with plaudits also due to designer Max Jones for several quality sets including a spooky Windsor Great Park.
 
What better on a cold autumn night to have both mind and body nourished and warmed by what is arguably Shakespeare’s greatest farce and to see it treated and brought to life so well.
 
A night out that can definitely be recommended to family, friends and mere acquaintances
 
 
British Theatre Guide
by Steve Orme
 
The Merry Wives of Windsor doesn't often come in the top ten of people's favourite Shakespeare plays, so handing it to a man making his full Royal Shakespeare Company directorial debut might be seen in some quarters as a poisoned chalice.
 
But Phillip Breen rises to the challenge of presenting the comedy on the main stage at Stratford and produces a lively, impressive production which should keep audiences laughing into 2013.
 
He could hardly have had a better cast and creative team at his disposal; that of course doesn't guarantee success but Breen directs astutely to ensure the piece is a success.
 
He’s decided to do a modern-dress production which for the most part comes off, although towards the end the production almost loses its way among a few gimmicks which are inexplicably thrown in.
 
Any production of The Merry Wives of Windsor stands or falls on the actor playing Sir John Falstaff. Here Desmond Barrit, who's no stranger to the role, gives a wonderful interpretation.
 
The standout moment is his attempted seduction of Alice Ford, his giant frame lustily lumbering across the stage almost in time with the strains of Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On and smugly presenting her with a box of Roses chocolates.
 
Barrit's portrayal shows Sir John to be a social dinosaur who is so full of himself that he earnestly believes he only has to snap his fingers and women will throw themselves at him. His self-delusion is laughable, not cringe-making.
 
Alexandra Gilbreath (Alice Ford) is a sensual, seductive temptress who wants revenge on Falstaff for thinking he is irresistible while Sylvestra Le Touzel (Meg Page) is demure and proper yet possessing a sardonic wit.
 
John Ramm is increasingly comical as intensely jealous Frank Ford who will stop at nothing to unmask his wife's supposed infidelity. His donning of a wig as part of a disguise is a touch of genius and geniality.
 
Anita Dobson, acting with the RSC for the first time, is naturally comfortable as a 21st century Mistress Quickly. She flits about the stage, continually eager to keep everyone happy yet not averse to a bit of gossip and scandal.
 
Other members of the cast who catch the eye include Bart David Soroczynski as an effervescent Dr Caius; Stephen Harper as Bardolph, a convincing drunk; and Calum Finlay as idiotic Slender.
 
Max Jones’s clever design incorporates the Virginia creeper-clad exterior of the Pages’ house, a rugby ground and the Garter Inn where Falstaff on one occasion sleeps on a snooker table after a heavy night’s drinking.
 
But after a spirited first three-quarters of the play, Breen’s production appears to move off at a tangent. The inn strangely adopts a German look during the only time the play loses its pace and drive, then during the final scene in Windsor Great Park Page and Ford incomprehensively appear as Superman and the Incredible Hulk.
 
However, that is a minor aberration in what is an otherwise excellent production. Breen goes for as many laughs as possible; the merriment is as plentiful as Falstaff’s girth.
 
 
Reviewsgate
Alexander Ray, 1 November 2012
 
Unhurried, unfussy, witty interpretation with lovely performances all round.
 
The story goes, as many will know, that Elizabeth I asked for Merry Wives to be written because she wanted to see Falstaff in love. Whether or not this is true, who really knows? Interestingly, though, this production truly is about the merry Wives and not about Falstaff.
 
Director, Phillip Breen, has decided to place the story in modern times – often it feels like '70s, often it wanders about a bit – which is fine by me. It’s marvellous to see Desmond Barrit back at Stratford; marvellous to see him expanding into Sir John Falstaff. In this virtually contemporary setting we can totally believe in this disreputable character. Barrit makes no external judgement on Falstaff – he creates an entirely unforced, three-dimensional character. We are free to judge him though, this knight is not in love, he sees his sexual conquest as a mark of his irresistibility. His downfall is necessary, deserved and, most importantly, comedic. 
 
The two wives – Mrs Page and Mrs Ford – are superb creations in the hands of Sylvestra Le Touzel and Alexandra Gilbreath. They are strongly contrasted; Page very County and Ford equally Noveau. But they are friends – and we like that. But this is a play about a trio of women; the third is Mrs Quickly. Anita Dobson creates a completely dotty characters, totally likeable and based, it would seem, on her name. Her direct address sections are a joy.
 
Strongly cast, there’s never a dull moment in Breen’s unhurried production. The story is allowed to find its own pace, supported by a fine score from Paddy Cunneen. 
 
 
Blog: Partially Obstructed View
Theatre review: The Merry Wives of Windsor (RSC / RST)
 
The RSC's big Christmas show this year is an all-guns-blazing Merry Wives of Windsor, although the seasonal feel is more Halloween – complete with jack o'lantern in a window – than Christmas. Phillip Breen's modern dress production comes straight out of the pages of Country Life, with wives in scarves and high-heeled wellies, and huntin', shootin', rugger-playing husbands. Legend has always had it that Elizabeth I herself requested that Shakespeare write The Merry Wives of Windsor, wanting to see Falstaff in love. If that old story were true, Shakespeare would probably have met with a sticky end because that's not what's provided here: Instead the fat old knight from Henry IV is very much in lust, with two married, upper-middle-class women. They're better friends than he realised though, and on discovering he's sent them both identical love letters decide to lead him on, and into embarrassing and increasingly public mishaps.
 
Where last summer one basic set served, with variations, for three different productions, here the production's status as a big holiday special is made clear with the amount of money that's been spent right there to see on stage: Max Jones' set design, with its houses, pubs and playing fields, a working Citroën 2CV and a full-size red phone box that appears for a matter of moments, is the most elaborate I've seen on the new-style diving board stages. It's not that surprising that it was so hard to install that the first few previews had to be cancelled.
 
Henry IVs at the RSC, Desmond Barrit finally returns to the role for the spin-off. It's a joy to see Barrit on stage again (what with him having made something of a career in recent years of replacing Richard Griffiths in Alan Bennett plays I'd already seen, it's been a while since I've caught his work.) He's robust and enthusiastic as the jollier take on Falstaff we get in this play, although there's flashes of the melancholy undercurrent from the History Plays; and there's certainly a feeling that the wives' revenge on a drunk old man outweighs the offence. (Is there a general consensus on when, in relation to the Henriad, Merry Wives is set? My feeling is, and this production seems to agree, that it's well after Hal's rejection, with Sir John retiring to the suburbs and trying to make the best of what he's left with; perhaps this final embarrassment is the last straw before his sad demise.) Barrit brings a lot of desperation and energy to the big humiliating setpieces, and Falstaff's relentless sense of keeping on going despite all signs that he should give up.
 
The casting of the titular wives is also inspired. The warmth and sense of mischievous fun of Alexandra Gilbreath as Alice Ford contrasts perfectly with Sylvestra Le Touzel's icy deadpan as Meg Page. One of those pairings where I kept going back and forth as to which was my favourite of the two performances. Elsewhere, Anita Dobson's Mistress Quickly becomes a slightly dim, meddling doctor's receptionist, trying to match-make Page's daughter Anne with all three of her suitors at once. As Anne herself Breen has brought along Naomi Sheldon from his production of Sex With A Stranger, while John Ramm is appropriately frantic as the ever-suspicious, jealous Frank Ford, leading to a lot of silliness with the hamper's worth of underwear being flung all around the auditorium. (When actors are clearly trying to clear stuff from the stage by chucking it into the audience, why are some audience members so determined to throw it right back on stage? Do they think they're being helpful? I think they'll find the ushers have been warned there might be some bras and pants to be cleared up after each show.)
 
Cute recent drama school graduate Calum Finlay is a stuttering hipster as Anne's main suitor Shallow. Although I was slightly confused by his arm being in a sling: When he first appeared with it I figured it was a reference to the beating he's had just before the play starts. But when it was still there after the interval I wondered if it was real and he was the latest victim of the Curse of the RSC. And then the sling was gone for the finale so maybe my first guess was correct and he didn't have a bicycle-related injury after all.
 
The Merry Wives of Windsor isn't generally regarded among the best of Shakespeare's comedies but if done right it can be a lot of fun. And it's done right here – with the more slapsticky elements of the comedy going at full tilt, and the script's delight in malapropisms (I don't think I'd spotted before just how many different characters in the play share that trait) more matter-of-factly brought out. Like most Shakespeare comedies, and even more so most farces, it takes a while to get going, but this was one of those productions where about half an hour in I realised that I'd fallen for the show's gentle charms.
 
 
Blog: Views from a Bum
by williamstafford 
 
A Basket of Laughs
 
Legend has it that this play was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth I who was eager to see more of lovable rogue Falstaff. Whatever the play’s provenance, director Phillip Breen brings it right up-to-date and delivers an evening of non-stop laughter, setting the action in an Ayckbournesque world of anoraks, rugby matches, folding chairs and picnic coolers. It fits Shakespeare’s most farcical comedy very well and yet again proves, to me at any rate, the mastery of the playwright in every genre.
 
The titular wives, Mistress Ford (Alexandra Gilbreath) and Mistress Page (Sylvestra Le Touzel) each receive love-letters from Falstaff. They recognise at once he is on the make and plot to humiliate him mercilessly. They make a formidable double act, with Gilbreath’s sensuality and Le Touzel’s more regimented approach. As their schemes come to fruition, and we, in on the joke, laugh along with them, they are merry indeed.
 
Other plotters are not as adept or as successful. Ford himself (John Ramm) dons a disguise and hires Falstaff to test his wife’s fidelity. It’s a hilarious, sit-com turn from Ramm, complete with dodgy wig and bombastic seething. Though he isn’t cuckolded by his merry wife, he is certainly held up for ridicule for his unreasonably suspicious nature. When he realises what an absolute, misguided fool he has been, he bursts into tears in a manner that is equally hilarious. There is very little sentimentality in this production. Thank goodness.
 
Anita Dobson dazzles as go-between Mistress Quickly. Dressed like Sybil Fawlty, she charms with her word play and clearly character and actress alike are enjoying themselves immensely.
 
There is strong support from a host of actors in the subplot about Ford’s daughter’s three suitors. Calum Finlay amuses as the ninny Slender; Bart David Soroczynski struts and frets as the French Doctor Caius, mangling English and swishing his fencing foil. This is Allo, Allo with better dialogue. Contrasting performances, both very funny.
 
David Sterne is an energetic Shallow, Thomas Pickles an engaging Simple but without doubt the evening belongs to Desmond Barrit’s Sir John Falstaff. From his first entrance in a chequered tweed suit, through his disguise as the Fat Woman of Brentford and his adventures with a laundry basket, to his final, antlered humiliation in the forest, this is a master class in comedic acting, making the most of his padded physicality as well as the excessive nature of the character. You can’t help loving him.
 
Naomi Sheldon has poise as teenage daughter Anne, keeping her on the right side of headstrong, and Paapa Essiedu charms as her handsome suitor Fenton.
 
Breen doesn’t miss a trick. The attention to detail wrings the humour from every moment. I particularly enjoyed the drunkard Bardolph (Stephen Harper)
the energy of the show doesn’t let the pace slacken for a second. There are some riotous moments of action but it is the comic playing of the cast (too numerous to mention them all individually) that keeps things ticking and sometimes sprinting along. Max Jones’s set design allows transitions that flow like a musical, seamlessly taking us from the pub to the rugby field to the Fords’ living room and so on.
 
The fifth act contains the final humiliation of Sir John. It’s a sort of parody of a masque that would have been all the rage back in the day. Here it’s updated with some hilarious costumes. It’s a play about practical jokes and the cruelty involved. Sir John pays for his confidence tricks but so too do the tricksters. Their machinations to marry Anne off to their preferred suitor come to nought. And it serves them right.
 
A delightful production on every level, this will get you merry on a cold winter’s night. If we have Good Queen Bess to thank for this play, I am very grateful indeed. Royal Command Performances have gone downhill, I fear, since her day.
 


 
  

Pistol (Ged Simmons), Falstaff (Desmond Barrit), Alice Ford (Alexandra Gilbreath) and George Page (Martin Hyder). 
Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Slender (Calum Finlay) and Simple (Thomas Pickles).
Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Sir Hugh Evans (David Charles) and Simple (Thomas Pickles). 
Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Slender (Calum Finlay) and Anne Page (Naomi Sheldon). 
Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Sir John Falstaff (Desmond Barrit).
Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
   

Sir John Falstaff (Desmond Barrit). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 
 

Sir John Falstaff (Desmond Barrit). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Bardolph (Stephen Harper) and Nim (Ansu Kabia). Photos © RSC / Pete Le May


Mistress Quickly (Anita Dobson) and Simple (Thomas Pickles). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Dr Caius (Bart David Soroczynski) and Mistress Quickly (Anita Dobson).
Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Dr Caius (Bart David Soroczynski) and Rugby (Obioma Ugoala). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Mistress Quickly (Anita Dobson). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Meg Page (Sylvestra Le Touzel). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Frank Ford (John Ramm) and George Page (Martin Hyder). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Shallow (David Sterne). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Frank Ford (John Ramm). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Mistress Quickly (Anita Dobson) and Sir John Falstaff (Desmond Barrit). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Mistress Quickly (Anita Dobson), Robin (Leon Finnan) and Sir John Falstaff (Desmond Barrit). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Mistress Quickly (Anita Dobson), Robin (Leon Finnan) and Sir John Falstaff (Desmond Barrit). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Mistress Quickly (Anita Dobson) and Sir John Falstaff (Desmond Barrit). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 


Ford (John Ramm) and Bardolph (Stephen Harper). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Falstaff (Desmond Barrit) and Ford (John Ramm). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Rugby (Obioma Ugoala) and Dr Caius (Bart David Soroczynski). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Dr Caius (Bart David Soroczynski), Host of the Garter Inn (Simeon Truby) and Rugby (Obioma Ugoala). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Shallow (David Sterne), Dr Caius (Bart David Soroczynski), Host of the Garter Inn (Simeon Truby) and Rugby (Obioma Ugoala). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Dr Caius (Bart David Soroczynski), Rugby (Obioma Ugoala), George Page (Martin Hyder) and Sir Hugh Evans (David Charles). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Frank Ford (John Ramm). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

George Page (Martin Hyder), Host of the Garter Inn (Simeon Truby), Frank Ford (John Ramm) and Dr Caius (Bart David Soroczynski). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Robin (Leon Finnan) and Meg Page (Sylvestra Le Touzel). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
  

Meg Page (Sylvestra Le Touzel) and Robin (Leon Finnan). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Meg Page (Sylvestra Le Touzel). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Alice Ford (Alexandra Gilbreath). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Alice Ford (Alexandra Gilbreath) and Sir John Falstaff (Desmond Barrit). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Meg Page (Sylvestra Le Touzel), Sir John Falstaff (Desmond Barrit) and Alice Ford (Alexandra Gilbreath). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Alice Ford (Alexandra Gilbreath) and Meg Page (Sylvestra Le Touzel). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Design by Max Jones; lighting by Tina MacHugh. Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Anne Page (Naomi Sheldon), Shallow (David Sterne) and Slender (Calum Finlay). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Bardolph (Stephen Harper). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Sir John Falstaff (Desmond Barrit). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Fenton (Paapa Essiedu). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Frank Ford (John Ramm). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Mistress Quickly (Anita Dobson). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Sir Hugh Evans (David Charles). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Mistress Quickly (Anita Dobson). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Sir John Falstaff (Desmond Barrit), Alice Ford (Alexandra Gilbreath) and Meg Page (Sylvestra Le Touzel). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Alice Ford (Alexandra Gilbreath). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Dr Caius (Bart David Soroczynski), George Page (Martin Hyder), Frank Ford (John Ramm) and Alice Ford (Alexandra Gilbreath). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Meg Page (Sylvestra Le Touzel) and Alice Ford (Alexandra Gilbreath). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Host of the Garter Inn (Simeon Truby) and Bardolph (Stephen Harper). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

 The Garter Inn. Photo © RSC / Pete Le May


Fenton (Paapa Essiedu). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Alice Ford (Alexandra Gilbreath), Sir John Falstaff (Desmond Barrit) and Meg Page (Sylvestra Le Touzel). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Sir Hugh Evans (David Charles). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Sir Hugh Evans (David Charles) and members of the company. Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Mistress Quickly (Anita Dobson) and members of the company. Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Mistress Quickly (Anita Dobson). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Mistress Quickly (Anita Dobson). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Sir John Falstaff (Desmond Barrit) and members of the company. Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Sir John Falstaff (Desmond Barrit). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

Sir John Falstaff (Desmond Barrit). Photo © RSC / Pete Le May
 

 



  

 

 
 


 
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