What a carry on in Windsor
Be you purist or iconoclast there’s just about something for everyone in Elle While’s likeable production of The Merry Wives of Windsor (Shakespeare’s Globe). However, being a jack of all trades when performing Shakespeare can also be your downfall and so we have a play of ups and downs. The plot and subplots are typical of the Bard and what this one lacks in nuance and wit it makes up for with silliness and farce. Sir John Falstaff (Pearce Quigley) is a lech, though looking at his inflated paunch, which is completely out of kilter with his thin legs, one wonders whether this knight’s lasciviousness would measure up once he has snared his prey.
The women he desires, primarily for their wealth, Mistress Ford (Bryony Hannah) and Mistress Page (Sarah Finigan), are a couple of wily so and so’s and on receiving the same letter from the horny knight they decide to plot a scenario that will expose the old fool for the flaccid frolicker that he is. Falstaff ends up in a smelly washing basket and tossed into the Thames. He will not be denied and returns for another attempt to fasten onto Ford. Hubby Frank returns, all hell breaks loose, with much hilarity and camp, the knight is forced to dress as a woman to escape. But all’s well that ends well, kind of, when he is caught out by the co-conspirators and he repents for his misdemeanours.
Meanwhile Mistress Page’s daughter Anne (Boadicea Ricketts) is also a wanted woman. Her mother wants her to wed ‘Allo Allo French physician Caius (Richard Katz), her father wants another and she herself wants Fenton (Zach Wyatt). The bonkers Shakespearean shenanigans, set here in the 1930’s with a live band, includes excellent choreography by Sasha Milavic Davies, is at its best when Quigley, the stand out performer, utters his sardonic put-downs and witticisms with the nonchalance of a seasoned pro. His phlegmatic portrayal works a treat and establishes a win-win rapport with the audience milking the laughs and generating dollops of sympathy when he is beaten and humiliated.
The remainder of the cast bode less well though Hannah and Katz relish playing the characters they portray if a little prone to over exaggerating their particular traits of cockney clown and Fringlish fop. Others struggle with the language of an adaptation that mixes medieval verse with modern vernacular. That said the Saturday matinee audience lapped it up. The Carry On crew would have fitted in perfectly.
Meanwhile Gracia Erinoglu is faced with the toughest question of all…
The three act Our Town (Regents Park Open Air Theatre) is set against the backdrop of the onset of world war two. It provides the audience with an insight into the everyday lives of the residents of the fictional American town of Grovers Corner. It is like a fly on the wall documentary, warts and all, demonstrating the importance of church hope to the community, and asks us to ponder the meaning of life. The production is peppered with humour and the minimalist set demands much of your imagination to visualise what must have been a wonderful town. The stellar cast does not disappoint and the a cappella singing is uplifting providing respite from the stark imagery.
This is most definitely a play for the whole family, and millennials and parents will resonate with the trials and tribulations of the two central characters, Emily and George, played superbly by Francesca Henry and Arthur Hughes. The accents are spot on and incredibly diverse cast was a another breath of fresh air. Thornton Wilder’s play is well worth a visit as a poignant reminder of how inaction and missed opportunities can irrevocably change the course of our destiny. Carpe diem!
Finally Giacometta Redinou basks in ‘old school’…
Another opera, another magnifico experience. Giordano’s Andrea Chénier (Royal Opera House), set in a time after the French Revolution is so intense it pulsates with passion. This David McVicar revival premiered in 2015. For me, this is opera as it should be, being brought up on fantastico traditional productions in Italy, it is a joy to watch and listen to, the sets and costumes reminiscent of a glorious painting of the period. The voices are equally magnificent with Sandra Radvanovsky (Maddalena) providing incredible contrast and Dimitri Platanias (Gérard) a furnace of bitterness. However, it is Roberto Alagna in the title role who gives us stellar quality with an interpretation that is all consuming, a man with great stage presence and charisma. The supporting roles are also excellent. Covent Garden is in full bloom right now.
The Merry Wives of Windsor – 020 7401 9919
Our Town – 0333 400 3562
Andrea Chénier – 020 7304 4000