Review: The Merry Wives of Windsor, RSC at the Barbican

In the spirit of the season, I’m not commenting too much on the RSC’s The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Barbican

“I hope we shall drink down all unkindness”

Fiona Laird’s production of The Merry Wives of Windsor is the third of the RSC’s show to open at the Barbican this winter and whilst it is certainly an eye-catching revival with its Only Way is Essex tendencies, it really wasn’t the one for me.

Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes ((with interval)
Photo: Manuel Harlan
The Merry Wives of Windsor is booking at the Barbican until 5th January

Review: Romeo and Juliet, RSC at the Barbican

A modern and moving take on Romeo and Juliet from the RSC at the Barbican

“I am too young. I pray you, pardon me”

It’s sometimes a little difficult to take seriously how old everyone is meant to be in Romeo and Juliet but Erica Whyman’s modern-day production for the RSC, playing in rep now at the Barbican, never lets you forget. She fills the stage with kids for a cacophonous prologue, Karen Fishwick’s Juliet rightfully feels like a child and in turn, Mariam Haque’s Lady Capulet (“I was your mother much upon these years that you are now a maid”) is a convincing 26, closer to her daughter in age than her husband, but emotionally distant from both. 

It’s a pattern Juliet seizes the first chance to break when she meets Bally Gill’s charismatic Romeo, a young man very much still coming into his own. And you feel that it is the running away that appeals to her just as much as the running away together. For she’s all too aware that there are cycles of violence that the young’uns of this Verona can’t hope to escape – indeed what chance do they have when even all the adults around them carry and use knives to resolve even the smallest slight.  Continue reading “Review: Romeo and Juliet, RSC at the Barbican”

Review: A Round Heeled-Woman, Aldwych

“I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like”

A Round-Heeled Woman made the unexpected jump from the Riverside Studios to the Aldwych Theatre to take advantage of the vacant West End theatre after the early closure of Cool Hand Luke. Adapted from a memoir by English Literature professor Jane Juska which detailed her sexual adventures when aged 66 and after 30 years of celibacy, she posted a personal ad in her favourite journal using the above-quoted line. 63 men responded and the show, written by Jane Prowse, goes through some of the adventures she has in re-engaging with her sexuality.

Sharon Gless is mostly excellent as Juska, warm and charismatic, which she needs to be to skate over the rougher edges of her character that the author has tried to smooth out. The troubled family history, the pointed self-centredness, Gless almost makes us forget about these things with an endearing sense of humour but I think that related to my perception of the actress rather than the character. Around her, a small ensemble cover a number of roles: Jane Bertish and Beth Cordingly play a pair of supportive friends nicely – Cordingly also doubles as a Trollope character amusingly well though I really didn’t care for this period addition to the drama. Continue reading “Review: A Round Heeled-Woman, Aldwych”

Review: Once Bitten, Orange Tree Theatre

“It’s a well-known fact that infidelity makes the heart grow stronger”

Opting for farce for their festive fare this year, Richmond’s Orange Tree Theatre is mounting a production of Once Bitten, by Alfred Hennequin & Alfred Delacour. Focusing on the trials and tribulations of would-be lawyer Fauvinard who, when he receives his first case, a woman who wants a divorce but no scandal, has to fit work into his busy schedule of philandering with his mistress. But things are rarely that easy as he has a household of eccentrics to deal with, a highly mistrusting mother-in-law, a narcoleptic uncle, a dippy maid plus his lawyer friend who also needs help in disguising his own infidelities. But when the mysterious Veauradieux case with its missing jewellery and inquisitive policemen threatens to envelop and expose everyone, including the mistresses. Oh, and there’s a dog…

As ever, there’s a multitude of misunderstandings, mistaken identities and mayhem as this group of people all try to achieve their own objectives as they all get further entangled in this mesh of surreal madness over a 24 hour period. Translated and adapted here by Reggie Oliver, it observes the three act format familiar to fans of Feydeau (indeed A Flea In Her Ear observes an almost identical set-up), setting up and starting the action in Fauvinard’s study in 1875 Paris and returning there for the climactic act, and placing the second act in the apartment of the one of the mistresses, an altogether more permissive venue where much of the outrageousness occurs. And it is all rather well done. Continue reading “Review: Once Bitten, Orange Tree Theatre”