London SE1 community website

The Merry Wives of Windsor at Shakespeare’s Globe

Marion Marples

That 'there's nothing new in show business' is well demonstrated in Christopher Luscombe's new production on Bankside.

One of Shakespeare's most accessible comedies, it has references to knife crime, binge drinking, the suspicion of strangers from overseas, and the dangers of eating too much butter.

The sparkling eponymous Wives take on the task of unmasking the randy old knight Falstaff (played saucily by Christopher Benjamin). Mistress Quickly aids and abets Meg Page (Serena Evans) and Alice Ford (Sarah Woodward) to delight in their double act of outwitting Falstaff and proving their (undeserved) fidelity to their jealous husbands. Of these, Frank Ford (Andrew Havill), adopting a blond wig as a disguise, has clear overtones of paranoid John Cleese and Fawlty Towers to remind us that this play is really the first sit com. Meanwhile his wife adopts Miranda Richardson's imperious tones in Blackadder, perhaps to point out that the first Elizabeth may well have commanded Shakespeare to write a play about Falstaff.

The Windsor location is very important: there are frequent references to the Knights of the Garter and attendant ceremonies. The action partly takes place in the galleried Garter Inn and Falstaff is ignominiously dunked in the Thames at nearby Datchet. The hilarious climax is at midnight when all parties come together at Herne's Oak in Windsor Forest, in a riot of strawmen and masked creatures.

I found the soundtrack element of the music developed by Nigel Hess a bit of a distraction but the new songs, including Falstaff's 'Ding Dong Bell' were fun. The versatile set with galleried half-timbered walls and galleries, wickety bridges and a reversing island bower give plenty of scope for changes of mood and pace. The host of supporting characters build the merriment and good humour of the play.

At last a Globe production which delights as much as in Mark Rylance's time as artistic director.

The SE1 website is supported by people like you
February at a glance
Keep up with SE1 news

We have three email newsletters for you to choose from:

We are part of
Independent Community News Network
Email newsletter

For the latest local news and events direct to your inbox every Monday, you need our weekly email newsletter SE1 Direct.

7,000+ locals read it every week. Can you afford to miss out?

Read the latest issue before signing up

News archive from February 1999 to January 2001
Got a story for us?
Contact us with your tip-offs and story ideas.