Synopsis: Sir John Falstaff gets more than he bargained for when he simultaneously pursues two wealthy married women. Upon receiving identical copies of Falstaff’s love letter, the spirited Mistresses Ford and Page cook up a scheme of their own to teach the fat knight a lesson, with uproariously funny results.
As Falstaff, Geraint Wyn Davies was dressed in a fat suit that made him look quite stately. He also managed to carry himself in a way that emphasized his size. It was fun to watch how he went about his business of wooing both, Mistress Ford and Mistress Page, never doubting that he may be rejected, as both ladies were of course loyal to their husbands. One of the funniest scenes was when he’s hiding from Mistress Page under the table. While the women were debating where to hide him from Mistress Ford’s jealous husband, he plops to the ground, lying on his back like a beetle before he gets back to his feet with considerable effort. The way he was constantly eating pastries and other sweets and licking his finger afterwards was very cute and always well timed to enhance the overall humour.
Nigel Bennett was very dashing as Dr. Caius, the French Doctor who had quite a temper and a heavy French accent that often gave his lines a different meaning. He looked very handsome in his perfectly tailored purple coat and silk vest. He was in great shape running up and down stairs and wielding his rapier in preparation of the duel he intended to fight with Sir Hugh Evans, played by Andrew Gillies (known to FK fans as Feliks Twist). Although short, the duel sequence itself was well choreographed and exciting to watch.
Tom Rooney was outstanding as Master Ford, the jealous husband who tried to prove his wife’s indiscretion in the most hilarious ways. Disguised as Master Brook, he visits Falstaff who recounts how he had fared in his first rendez-vous that had to be aborted abruptly because Master Ford was coming home and Falstaff went to hide in a buck basket and was thrown into the Thames along with dirty linen. So, when Brook visits him, Falstaff has his feet in a bucket of water, recovering from his recent adventure. During Falstaff’s tale, Brook gets into quite a rage and exclaims that he needs to wake up from this nightmare. When Falstaff has left the room, Brook splashes his face with water, realizing belatedly that he had used the water where Falstaff had bathed his feet in. Then he states that the next time he will search for him in the tiniest hole. He emphasized this by sticking his hand into a goblet with the result that the goblet remains stuck on his hand. When Falstaff meets again with Mistress Ford, Master Ford rushes in, followed by his guests Dr. Caius, Hugh Evans, Master Shallow and Master Page. When Ford pulls his hand from his pocket, the goblet is still stuck on it (in the next scene he wears a bandage, apparently the result from removing the goblet). He rushes to the buck basket, convinced that Falstaff (who has left the house in women’s clothes) is hiding inside again and begins to throw out the clothes. One piece of underwear lands on the shoulder of Dr. Caius who picks it up with two fingers and removes it distinctly. Master Ford stops when he realizes the basket is empty. The gentlemen move in behind him, eyeing into the basket, suspiciously. The look on their faces speaks volumes as to what they think of Master Ford. Master Ford then storms to the door that leads to his wife’s bedroom where he intends to continue his search and invites his guests to follow him. They follow suit while Dr. Caius exclaims “’Tis is no de fashion of France; it is not jealous in France,” which earned him lots of laughter from the audience.
Andrew Gillies was great as the Welsh parson Sir Hugh Evans who played his part with the distinct Welsh rolling “r”. Janet Wright was a portly Mistress Quickly, Tom McCamus was a gentle Master Page, which was interesting as I had seen him so fiercely as Captain Hook in the previous year’s production of “Peter Pan”. James Blendick made a good Master Shallow and Abigail Winter-Culliford was delightful as young Robin, page to Falstaff. And the women, Lucy Peacock as Mistress Ford and Laura Condlln as Mistress Page were an energetic duo.
I enjoyed this production immensely. It was very well done and outrageously funny.