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I saw this production of The Merry Wives of Windsor, at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, on 10th January 2013.  And what a production it was!  Briefly, the play revolves around Sir John Falstaff – a portly, slovenly, and frequently inebriated knight, who being short of funds, decides to court two wealthy wives in Windsor.  However, the wives realise what he is up to, and set out to play a trick on him, to teach him a lesson.  There is a subplot involving young Anne Page, the daughter of one of the wives.  Her mother wants her to marry the French Doctor Caius, and her father wants her to marry a wealthy man named Slender.  Anne herself however, is in love with Fenton – but will true love win the day?  And will Falstaff get his comeuppance?

This particular play is not regarded as one of Shakespeare’s best, but this production , directed by Philip Breen, is certainly a triumph.  I actually had face-ache from laughing so much.  Desmond Barrit was sublime as Falstaff – just perfect.  The scene where he sashays across the floor to the strains of Marvin Gaye, brandishing a box of Roses chocolates with which to seduce Mrs Ford, was sidesplittingly funny.  Both of the wives – and their respective husbands (Mr and Mrs Ford were played by John Ramm and Alexandra Gilbreath; Mr and Mrs Page were played by Martin Hyder and Sylvestra Le Touzel) were excellent, but in truth, there was not a weak link in the whole cast.  Anita Dobson (probably best known as Angie Watts in Eastenders) also displayed a marvellous comic touch as Mistress Quickly, Caius’s assistant, who becomes embroiled in all of the various romantic entanglements.

For a wonderful afternoon or evening out, I would definitely recommend paying a visit to The Merry Wives of Windsor.

(For more information about this production, or about the Royal Shakespeare Company, please click here.)

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