The Merry Wives of Windsor is the only play Shakespeare set in Britain and Elle While’s production feels like a real celebration of multi-cultural nation with it’s rich pool of accents and heritage. Although the 1930’s setting is apparent, with stunning costumes and a gorgeous swing dance to conclude, there’s a distinctly contemporary twist to this joyous production. Some of the language even feels modern…that’s not including the ad-libs from the cast having fun with the groundlings.

It may not be one of Shakespeare’s most admired plays, written entirely in prose and with an unexceptional plot but it’s scope for physical humour as well as verbal is perfect for the Globe where the audience is a real mix of Shakespeare aficionados and non English speaking tourists. Pearce Quigley as a hilariously dour Falstaff had the crowd laughing and shrieking after spraying them with beer before threatening to empty his sodden shoe on their heads.

Apart from going to parties, dressing as fairies in the forests and generally having fun the plot is about the serious need for women taking control. As women only got equal voting rights as men in 1928, the 1930’s setting makes a lot of sense. Young and feisty Anna Page played by Boadicea Ricketts is in love with and has a cunning plot to trick her parents who have other suitors in mind for her. At the same time, Mistress Ford and Mistress Page (Sarah Finigan) devise elaborate plots to make a fool of Falstaff who assumes they are foolish enough not only to be wooed by him, but at the same time. Just to make sure all the men have their assumptions blasted, Mistress Ford played by Bryony Hannah, (Call the Midwife) reveals her husbands jealousy and suspicions through yet another ploy involving good humoured set ups and dressing up.

Shakespeare is a master of the clever woman, and the foolish man and this is where the joy of The Merry Wives of Windsor lies. Hannah and Finigan make a warm and funny duo and there are some irresistibly ridiculous performances including Richard Katz as the incomprehensible Frenchman, Dr Caius and Anne Odeke as a somewhat deranged hostess. Spending an evening watching the night fall at the Globe is always a pleasure and this stylish comedy is perfect Summer fare.

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