Now let it rain potatoes!

The Merry Wives of Windsor. August 23, Globe Theatre, London.

It was a warm, late summer evening and a fine drizzle made its way down from the heavens just as Christopher Benjamin playing Sir John Falstaff uttered the lines 'Let the Sky rain potatoes. Let it thunder to the tune of greensleeves, hail kissing comfits and snow eringoes'. Perfect timing: nature coming out in sympathy for the comic timing of the production.

Merry Wives was not a play I knew particularly before going. It was a production full of vivacity and sparkling humour. There was of course more than a hint of Fawlty Towers about it. Master Ford played to perfection by Andrew Harvill was a high strung, ranting and raving jealous loon, consumed by his desire to discover what his wife was up to. This led to some brilliantly comic moments with some delightful playing with the audience.

The play was performed in traditional Elizabethan costumes many of which were vivid and eye catching; it was a visual feast. Particularly striking was the costume of the thoroughly ridiculous and distinctly camp Master Slender (A favourite of mine; played by Will Belchambers) who was resplendent in lime and orange silks. Later Falstaff appears in his wooing clothes delightfully over the top in gold and purple velvets.

It was an incredibly rich production full of laughter and a huge number of sight gags. A particular favourite was as Master Ford looks for the hidden Falstaff in a large laundry basket, (Cue heated cries of ‘buck basket!’) tearing through the contents and throwing around his wife’s undergarments. They are thrown with panic and an obvious fear of ‘girl germs’ from one man to another until it reaches an all too eager Master Shallow who looks tempted to try it on for size. Splendid.

The staging of the play was set across a whimsical extension of the thrust stage. It opened out at the edges to form a pit with a runway around the front. I was fortunate enough to get to stand inside the pit which meant a lot of interaction from all sides. It was another interesting way of reaching out to the audience, something which the Globe does rather well.

This was an extremely funny production, which made me laugh so much that by the end I had a stitch in my side and serious face ache.

What more could you want from a comedy?


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