Saturday, 3 November 2012
Theatre review: The Merry Wives of Windsor (RSC / RST)
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.
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 by William Shakespeare is booking in repertory until the 12th of January at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon.
Running time: 3 hours 5 minutes including interval.