The Merry Wives of Windsor - RSC, Stratford on Avon

By Ian Hughes Friday 02 November 2012 Updated: 08/11 11:33

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Buy photos » Merry time - left to right - Stephen Harper (Bardolph), Desmond Barrit (Sir John Falstaff), Alexandra Gilbreath (Alice Ford) and Martin Hyder (George Page) Photo by Pete Le May. Copyright: RSC

The Merry Wives of Windsor

RSC

Stratford

TECHNICAL problems saw the preview performance of this production postponed no less than three times. Having finally got the curtain up it's a wonder it wasn't more - such is the theatrical wizardry employed. It's as if director Phillip Breen had a childhood dream fulfilled of being let loose in the proverbial toy shop. At his disposal is the full arsenal of the transformed RST, and boy does he use it.

Sets change quicker than the players themselves. Rugby posts descend from above, a telephone box from below, a German bierkeller from behind, a sofa rises and falls, a snooker table appears and disappears, and a Citroen 2cv tootles on and off stage, while Herne's magnificent oak is the tree of all Merry Wives. This production is certainly a spectacle.

With everything going-on around one could be forgiven for forgetting there's a play taking place inbetween all the set shifting. Happily it's not a case of after the Lord Mayor's show. This is a solid rendering of Shakespeare's slapstick comedy, if a little overstretched at times. A good 20 minutes could, and should, be shaved.

For a near copyright Falstaff then Desmond Barrit's rounder than round fat knight is pretty much it.

Sylvestra Le Touzel and Alexandra Gilbreath form an increasingly tight pair as plotting wives Meg Page and Alice Ford - hitting a peak in a truly joyous laundry basket scene - as do their suspecting hubbies Martin Hyder (George Page) and John Ramm (Frank Ford), who end up dressed as Superman and The Incredible Hulk - for whatever reason.

There's also plenty of comic capers from the likes of Anita Dobson's fix all secretary Mistress Quickly, Bart David Soroczynski's uptight Frenchie Dr Caius, Calum Finlay's nerdy Slender, and Stephen Harper's sozzled stumbling Bardolph.

A merry evening all told.

The Merry of Wives of Windsor runs at the RST until January 12. Visit www.rsc.org.uk for tickets and further details.

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