At first thought, placing Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives Of Windsor in 1980s suburban Australia seems unlikely to succeed. However, Victor Kalka’s tight direction, Cheryl Ward’s hilarious Sir John Falstaff, and a talented cast, pull it off – with great flair.
A simple backyard set (designed by Victor Kalka) complete with a Hills Hoist firmly locates the action in outer suburbia – perhaps near Kath and Kim’s place?
It hardly matters if you miss some of the convoluted plot as the fast-paced dialogue carries you forward.
Put simply, Falstaff plans to woo two of the wives of wealthy Windsor men so he can get at some of their money. But mistresses Ford (Roslyn Hicks, who does splendid shimmies in jacquard crimplene) and Page (Suzann James) are on to Falstaff’s machinations and hatch multiple plots to humiliate him.
The jealous Ford (Rob Ferguson) misinterprets his wife’s antics. He disguises himself andasks Falstaff to help him test Mistress Ford’s fidelity, which he intends to prove by wooing her as a stranger. Falstaff is happy to oblige.
Meanwhile, Mistress Ford is pretending to be perfidious so as to shame Falstaff, but in doing this, she is unwittingly providing her husband with grist for his jealous mill.
Mistress Page is busy arranging a suitable marriage for her daughter Anne (Jessie Lancaster), who is juggling three suitors.
Mistress Page contrives with Sir Hugh Evans (Dwayne Lawler), a Welsh Parson, to marry her daughter to the French doctor Caius (Rob Thompson).
As with many Shakespearean comedies, there is a sojourn in the forest with the “faeries” in attendance and/or in disguise. During this chaos, Anne slips away with her true love, Fenton (Olivia Xegas).
In the capable hands of this cast, Shakespearean English with an Aussie twang makes perfect sense and a terrific night out.
Go see it!