Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

An evening for making merry

Marika Farr as Mrs Alice Ford, Bob Graham as Sir John Falstaff and Sinead Maffei as Mrs Meg Page

The Merry Wives of Windsor

The Nonentities

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


AMID the welter of words, there were a couple of first-night stumbles. They were not to be compared, however, to the impressive purler that a member of a pleasing company took while negotiating some upstage steps – without, however, appearing to suffer undue damage, judged from Row L.

But before the action started, there was applause for the set and the 13-strong choir with its Victorian bonnets and tailcoats that support a happy production on which director Jen Eglinton has bestowed a seasonable Dickensian air.

This is a venture in which Judy Bassett's Mistress Quickly catches the eye and the ear. Here is a no-holds-barred contribution that chortles rosy-cheeked and histrionic, with fluttery hands that help to command the stage whenever she is involved. She is the adverb among the adjectives – Shallow, Slender and Simple (Patrick Bentley, Dan Taylor and Alan Minaker, respectively) – who keep the romp rolling to good effect.


Bob Graham gives us a Falstaff perhaps less upholstered than he might have been but nevertheless possessed of enough apparent poundage to justify his claim to “a kind of alacrity in sinking.” His voice is sound – rough, authoritarian – and his manner can be declamatory when necessary. He also undertakes an impressive jump onto the stage from an elevated launch-pad – particularly eye-catching, considering the padding which must be something of a handicap in any athletic endeavour.

This is the lascivious old rogue with his eyes on the comely forms of ladies who are well able to look after themselves. He's a failed philanderer and he's fun to watch in his pursuit of Mistress Alice Ford (Marika Farr) and Mistress Meg Page (Sinead Maffei). Dennis Beasley (Bardolph), Trevor Bailey (Pistol) and Nick Haynes (Nim) are his companions.

Martin Copland-Gray has audience appeal as the very Welsh Sir Hugh Evans, and Alex Forty unleashes a larynx that makes it clear that he keeps a hostelry that brooks no nonsense. Richard Taylor, as Frank Ford, and Tom Rees, as George Page, are the husbands who have to keep alert to frustrate any Falstaff move in the direction of their wives.

Chris Kay (Fenton) makes a good job of helping any audience members who may be struggling to keep up when he is at pains to explain the plot to Mine Host. He and Sophie Harrison (Anne) are a pleasing pairing, and Stuart Walton's Dr Caius is an elegant apothecary who may possibly have escaped from ۥAllo, ۥAllo.

It's a happy night – and there's even a reference to behind the arras. To 10-12-11.

John Slim


Home Reviews A-Z Reviews by affiliate