Merry Wives of Windsor

Performed in Rowntree Park
Friday 25th to Sunday 27th May and Wednesday 30th May to Jubilee Tuesday 5th June 2012 (14 performances of which 3 rained off)

And at The Dell, Stratford on Sunday 10 June

buy antabuse online canada Cuckoldry, double-dealing and trickery – The strait-laced town of Windsor is about to be turned upside down. Invaded by a carnival of outlandish characters, the town’s inhabitants must learn to loosen up … whether they like it or not.

Down on his luck, the roguish Falstaff takes on Windsor’s polite society, swindling and seducing as he goes. But – he soon finds that he has bitten off more than he can chew when Mistress Ford and Mistress Page decide to take their revenge. With a trick or two up their respective sleeves, the ladies set out to teach both Falstaff and their husbands a lesson.

Featuring live folk music, York Shakespeare Project presented one of Shakespeare’s best-loved and most uproarious comedies. Scroll down to read the director’s note!

reflexly Cast:
Clive Lyons
Mistress Ford:  
Clancy McMullan
Mistress Page:  
Victoria Delaney
Master Ford:  
Ben Sawyer
Master Page:  
Tony Bower
Anne Page:  
Katy Devine
Joe Gregory
Glen Collier
Doctor Caius:  
Richard Johnston
Jeremy Muldowney
Understudy to Shallow:  
Myrna Michell
Sir Hugh Evans:  
Sam Valentine
Charles Hunt
Mistress Quickly:  
Kayleigh Oliver
Brenton Spyker
Mark Simmonds
Dave Malinsky
John Rugby:  
Sarah Stamford
Joseph Bower

 Tom Straszewski
Producer:  Kayleigh Oliver
Stage Manager:  Natasha Wallace
Lighting:  Karen Millar
Sound:  Paul Hepworth
Set Designer:  Lucy Beveridge
Costumes:  Tom Straszewski & Whitney Ivey
Publicity:  Rachel Alexander-Hill
Photography:  Lachlan Young
Programme/Leaflet Design:  Andy Curry
Programme Layout/Design:  Lada Hunt

Musical Director:  
Joe Steele
Trumpet/Backing Vocals:  Tamsin Cowell
Cello:  Rosie Dyer
Viola/Vocal on ‘Hal-An-Tow’:  Andrew Hume
Flute/Backing Vocals:  Rowena Jacobs
Baritone Saxophone:  Nick Jones
Guitar:  Sam Rankin

Director’s Note:
Merry Wives is often seen as a lightweight piece of fluff, an early sitcom knocked up in a week to please Queen Elizabeth I. This does it an injustice – not only because its treatment of jealousy is
more believable and human than most of Shakespeareís tragedies, but his comedy here is vastly more accessible. Itís a play enjoyed by audiences ever since its first performance, whether or not
critics agree.
Weíve avoided setting it too firmly in Britainís past. Falstaff is medieval, the Fords and Pages are Elizabethan, other characters are simply timeless. In a summer of Olympics, Jubilees and Yorkís own 800 celebrations, Iíve instead sought inspiration in British carnivals and street parties, with Falstaff as the fool turning our orderly lives upside down for the day.

And yet Falstaff is not the only oddity in Windsor. Reading the play, it struck me that almost everybody outside of the Pages and the Fords are alien to Windsor. And not only strangers, but soldiers! Cowardly as he may be, Falstaff is a knight and he brings with him the men under his command. Fenton is likewise a knight, friend to the warrior Prince Hal. Even Shallow has a warlike youth, ever eager to rely on the sword. Windsor is in fact a town occupied by foreign troops. Luckily this is a war of words, not swords. By the end of the play, the carnival is over, the outsiders either reconciled or thrown out again. And Falstaff? Well, youíll have to see.

As I write, the rain is doing its very best to flood the Park in which you sit. Like Falstaff, this production has been thoroughly washed in the river; thankfully our cast and crew are just as irrepressible a the rambunctious knight. We very much hope you enjoy the result!

In The York Press, Charles Hutchinson wrote:

NORMALLY, reviews of al fresco theatre shows end with a weather warning that is as much a part of the great English summer as rusty barbecues and rioting for trainers. You know the drill: if a performance is rained off, ticket holders will be refunded.

Thankfully, however, the only wet stuff that accompanies The Merry Wives Of Windsor is the sack being quaffed with gargantuan gusto by Elizabeth I’s favourite fat drunkard, Sir John Falstaff.

History has it that The Merry Wives was penned in a frantic fortnight at Queen Bess’s behest as a comic encore for Falstaff after he was such a big hit in every way in the Henry history plays. If so, he was a victim of his success, as he is the butt of the joke played by Shakespeare in one of his lesser-known but easiest-to-follow comedies, here given a clear-thinking interpretation by University of York masters degree student Tom Straszewski in his YSP directorial debut.

He is full of good decisions, from his casting choices to having Joe Steele’s band to the side of the stage in a gazebo, playing perky old folk tunes (and a Billy Bragg-style hymn to the romantic map of Britain beforehand).

Inspired too is the demarcation between out-of-townies and Windsor’s community by the use of face paint for the invasion force led by Falstaff. Straszewski has been appearing in YSP shows since 2009 and combines this inside track with a desire to put his writing, directing and performance studies into practice. The ability to bring characters alive through movement and physicality is essential, he believes, to address the issue of playing such a big, open space as Rowntree Park.

His cast has carried out that philosophy to the max in big, bold, expressive performances, none more so than Clive Lyons, whose return to the stage for the first time since student days makes you wonder how he could resist the lure of the greasepaint for so long (work commitments, apparently). Not only is Lyons physically imposing, with an absurdly rotund fat-suit clasped to his stomach like a turtle, he has a volcanic rumble in his voice to go with his naturally humorous rhythms. What a find for YSP.

Likewise, Victoria Delaney stands out in her YSP debut as Mistress Page, working the stage space to the full and engaging the audience in eye contact. Clancy McMullan bonds well with her as Mistress Ford, her partner in outwitting Falstaff’s ribald advances.

Richard Johnson is madly French as the jilted Doctor Caius, Ben Sawyer’s bluff as Master Ford in Irish disguise is a delightful deception; Kayleigh Oliver’s Mistress Quickly is as nimble in deed as her name, and good turns come from Katy Devine’s Anne Page and Joe Gregory’s Slender too.

Lucy Beveridge’s set is fit for a jubilee celebration and a merry time will be had by all.