The Merry Wives at The Liverpool Playhouse

Posted on 26 May 2016
By Mythili Rane
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Northern Broadsides brings to the Liverpool Playhouse The Merry Wives, relocated from Windsor to a 1920s posh Yorkshire clubhouse. The dialogue, however, remains that of the Bard’s.

This is also where we meet Sir Falstaff. He is a knight with a potbelly of, as one might say, two yards. He is old and quite skint. He thinks the world laughs along with him when really the world mostly laughs at him. Barrie Rutter, the founder of Northern Broadsides, brings Falstaff to life but that’s all he really does with him.

Perhaps, if there were a bit less theatrics on his part and a little more zest and soul, things would be more interesting. The scene in which he is forced to hide in a dirty laundry basket relies more heavily on the over-the-top performance from the wives, while his sneaky sniggering only serves to dilute the essence of the moment.

The highlights of the nearly three-hour long performance are all supplied by the wives. Becky Hindley, as Mistress Ford, and Nicola Sanderson, as Mistress Page, are a sheer delight to behold. Their laughter at fooling Falstaff and avenging themselves of his cheap seduction seems so real; the audience starts laughing along with them.

Other than this, though, the other character to really stand out is that of Doctor Caius, played by Andy Cryer. His sheer French-ness and eccentric ways are truly refreshing and like a splash of cold water after a long and at times quite tedious first half.

This production of one of the lesser-performed plays of Shakespeare could have been carried across a little better and, as a result, there are few moments to warrant resounding laughter, although there are numerous moments worthy of shorts bursts of laughter. .

The Merry Wives
Liverpool Playhouse
May 23 – May 28
Directed By: Barrie Rutter
Cast: Barrie Rutter, Nicola Sanderson, Becky Hindley, Andrew Vincent, Roy North, Andy Cryer.
PR Rating: *** Merry, yes, Boisterous …?