RSC’s Merry Wives of Windsor at The Barbican

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Posted by May B on Friday 14th of December 2018




What a jolly evening! RSC’s production of Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor brings TOWIE and pantomime bling to The Barbican.

There are two main stories. The main theme regards down-on-his-luck Sir John Falstaff’s plot to seduce two wives – and their double-bluff efforts to thwart and humiliate him. This is an interesting twist on gold-digging and there’s a jealous husband thrown in for good measure too. And there are three suitors vying for the hand in marriage of one of the wives daughters – who uses a mobile phone, wears a sparkly parka and cries “OMG!”

The costume designers merit a special mention. Trunk hose and ruffs combined with modern materials such as denim and pin stripe. There was even a rugby shirt. And the wealthy women’s outfits combined Elizabethan corsets with tight leggings a la Hermes and dress coats reflecting designers such as Chanel. There was more leopard print in the bar than you’d see in an episode of Birds of a Feather.

David Troughton was larger than life as Sir John Falstaff – with a red nose matching his enormous Union Flag waistcoat.

There were plenty of Essex accents along with French and Welsh voices which made a pleasing contrast. There was a Russian spy and Polish dialogue. It was, at times, both camp and hammy. The music evoked Elizabethan times but sometimes swung to more modern styles – and there was even a hip-hop mashup.

The excellent staging used just about every possible device – video projection, illuminated buildings that rotated and a platform that emerged centre stage. Over the top props included pink flamingos, inflatable swans and lime green sun loungers.

Slapstick, dancing, dog puppets, fighting, flossing, pyrotechnics, audience participation – it could be a farce too far.

The Merry Wives of Windsor runs for about two and a half hours and is playing until 5th January.

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