A Company of Fools has been presenting their Torchlight Shakespeare Series around Ottawa parks for ten years. This year their irreverent wit and style get applied to Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, directed by Catriona Leger.
Should you see it?
Shakespeare’s Falstaff considers himself something of a ladies man. Dropping love letters left at right as he sees fit. At the moment, he’s chosen two married women to pursue — Mistresses Page and Ford — and, while in a Hollywood rendering, the hilarity would come from him trying to keep the women finding out about one another, here, refreshingly, they’re both onto him from the beginning. Rather than just let him down and move on, the two merry wives of Windsor take it on themselves to mess with him a little bit. Or, a lot. Including hiding him in the laundry, dumping him in the Thames and dressing him up like a woman. Master Ford is also in on Falstaff’s plot, but thinking his wife really is having an affair, he goes undercover to find evidence by asking Falstaff to help him also bed the lovely mistress — who, yes, is actually his wife.
It’s big, it’s zany, and it’s all mightily foolish (yes, that’s a play on words, deal with it). The very strong cast of Melanie Karin Brown (Mistress Page), Katie Ryerson (Mistress Ford), Simon Bradshaw (Page), John Doucet (Ford), Geoff MdBride (Evans), and Matthew John Lundvall as Falstaff are all enormous fun to watch and it’s clear they’re having a fantastically fun time up on stage.
There’s also a subplot with the Pages’s daughter, Anne, who is on the verge of being wed. To who, being the question: the suitor favoured by her mother, the suitor favoured by her father, or the man she loves?
While not contributing anything at all to the main plot of the merry wives, this subplot gives each of the cast members an opportunity to do double duty and jump into another role with hilarious results. From John Doucet’s surfer dude Fenton, to Simon Bradshaw’s sabre-happy and plucky, Dr. Caius, and to Melanie Karin’s positively hilarious Slender who couldn’t really care less about the whole thing and is relieved when it’s all done. The six person cast actually do more like triple duty with everybody but Lundvall taking on three or more roles in the show.
A Company of Fools also hit the mark with a striking production design full of bright vibrant colours that help distinguish the different families.
The Merry Wives of Windsor is a fun and entertaining piece of outdoor theatre – with perhaps the best thing about it is that it comes to you, as the Fools tour parks around the city.
But that’s just my opinion and I would love to know what you thought? What had you laughing most? Did the Fool’s adaptation of The Merry Wives of Windsor do it for you at all? Let me know in the comments below.
For full details on The Merry Wives of Windsor, take a look at our preview article, complete with photo and video.