The Merry Wives of Windsor – Bath Drama/Rondo Theatre Company – The Botanical Gardens, Bath – Summer 2010

Bawdy battle of the sexes was faultless

Oh, what a perfect summer’s evening entertainment – a faultless production of Shakespeare’s naughty bawdy comedy that was blessed by good weather.
For once we could sit back with our picnics in the warmth of the evening sun and enjoy – as opposed to endure – an open air performance.
And there was no question about enjoying this co-production between two of Bath’s best known amateur theatrical companies – It was wonderful.

Director Jennifer Riddle took this raunchy battle of the sexes tale and gave it a modern twist by setting it in the 1950’s complete with some cool jazz courtesy of saxophonist Nick Sorensen.
The play features Falstaff- but not as you would recognise him from Henry IV, in this production he becomes a swaggering spiv in a jazz club who sets his sights on seducing two attractive women – the merry wives of the title.
What follows is a fast-paced farce in which the women easily outwit the lusts, intrigues and jealous foibles of Falstaff and their husbands.

Lindsey Peters as Mrs Ford and Alex Oliviere-Davies as Mrs Page were excellent as the merry wives who have such sport, conspiring together with much wit and glee. Falstaff is played in hilarious fashion by a greasy, strutting Matt Nation who, on the opening night, was word perfect in his demanding role.
A sub-plot in the play that revolves around three suitors vying for the hand of the maiden Anne Page (Claire Wilkins) allows for more comedy in the camp portrayal of one of the suitors, the ridiculous Slender, by Steve Huggins and by his idiotic manservant Simple (Kevin Williams).

Chris Seton-Smith, another suitor was very funny with his cod French as Dr Caius and there was a marvellous fencing scene between him and vicar Sir Hugh Evans (Jeff Hughes).

Supporting cast were all equally good and the pace never let up, never missed a beat.

Jackie Chappell