DramaNorth WestReviewShakespeare

The Merry Wives – The New Victoria Theatre, Newcastle Under Lyme

Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Barrie Rutter
Reviewer: Carol Lovatt


For a bawdy evening of spectacle and farce, The Merry Wives is a play not to be missed. A comedic masterpiece based on human emotion and misunderstanding, this creative production, directed by the powerhouse of Northern Broadsides, Barrie Rutter, is a feast of chaotic shenanigans and surreal storyline involving nocturnal fairies and chameleon knights. Rutter has pulled out all the stops to ensure this production has a twist to it that will enthral and perplex audiences in equal measure, albeit in the most engaging manner.

Set in the roaring 20s, in itself an interesting interpretation for Shakespeare, the staging, music and costume add a combination of glamour, humour and hedonism that initially challenge then delight with the juxtaposition of authentic prose. That’s the beauty of Shakespeare, an evening in the company of his work is never an easy ride but it is always a worthy experience.

Essentially, The Merry Wives is a tale of love, jealousy, misinterpretation, lust, and comeuppance. In other words, an everyday story of human endeavour that transcends time and culture and that Shakespeare understood to perfection. That’s why he is still the most popular writer of his genre centuries after his death.

Rutter plays the memorable Sir John Falstaff, a Knight of the realm and a character larger than life in every capacity. A once noble figure, now more akin to hard times, Falstaff continues to play on his own importance with hilarious results and endearing pathos. Rutter is outstanding in his portrayal of the grotesque caricature of a fallen hero and totally engaging on stage. It is a joy to see the interplay between the old deluded fool and the mischievous Merry Wives, Mistress Margaret Page and Mistress Alice Ford, played by Nicola Sanderson and Becky Hindley respectively. Both of whom relish the opportunity to humiliate and mock the overbearing oath and do it with such sweet success.

The husband of Mistress Ford, the madly jealous and wildly emotive Frank Ford, played with incredible gusto by Andrew Vincent, is a character who really steals the show with his unjust outbursts and heartfelt confessions. Another key performance to take note of is that of Abraham Slender, played by Jos Vantyler, who is far more subtle in his portrayal of a stupid boy but also clever with his quick-wittedness which is portrayed with acerbic understated precision.

As to be expected with Northern Broadsides, The Merry Wives has a multi-talented cast and they do not disappoint with their ability to entertain and enthuse the theatregoer.

Runs until 27February 2016 and then tours | Image: Nobby Clark



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