The RSC’s latest production of The Merry Wives of Windsor has hit the boards at the Barbican Centre, but has this often over looked Shakespearean comedy come out to shine in this latest production?
So often when performing Shakespeare in the modern age performances seem to want to fall into either the categories of thoroughly modern or steadfast traditional Jacobean. This production of The Merry Wives of Windsor straddles the two with traditional dictation, modern accents and a ingenious mixed costume design which really works for any era. The large cast are introduced in a very traditional Elizabethan manner with each performer being introduced individually by name and a classic pre-performance dance whilst historical context is briefly introduced to the performance.
The set and staging isn’t exactly breaking new grounds but it is really beautiful despite it’s relative simplicity. The lighting really stands out with a beautifully subtly yet effective design that really elevates the whole performance.
The performance itself is slow to get going and on the whole it struggles to hold the full attention of the audience until late in the first act. Thankfully from then onward the energy really picks up and there is constant entertainment and laughs right through until the end. There are times when the direction falls into the trap of using cheap laughs which the audience mostly ignores in order to stay relevant and generally this feels like a B performance in the RSC’s roster, but it’s an enjoyable show none the less.
The Merry Wives of Windsor is on at the Barbican Centre until the 5th of January, tickets start from £12 and can be bought through the London Box Office website.
I received a complementary ticket from London Box Office on return for a review, all words and opinions are my own.