Review: THE WIFE OF WILLESDEN At American Repertory Theater Is Storytelling At Its Finest

The production runs now through March 17th.

By: Mar. 13, 2023
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Review: THE WIFE OF WILLESDEN At American Repertory Theater Is Storytelling At Its Finest
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Every single person on this planet has their own story to tell. I have one, you have one, the person who cut you off during your morning commute has one, everyone. In The Wife of Willesden (adapted from Chaucer's 'The Wife of Bath' by Zadie Smith), Alvita isn't afraid to tell you hers.

The play is set in a pub in the London neighborhood of Willesden. We meet some locals who have a storytelling contest where the prize is a complimentary full English Breakfast (with chips). Some folks tell their tales and then enters Alvita (played by the captivating Clare Perkins), also known as The Wife of Willesden. She earned that nickname by marrying five husbands. She spends the next hour or so telling you about her husbands and assuring the audience that there is nothing wrong with having multiple partners throughout your life and quite frankly that it's okay to love sex.

The Wife of Willesden
Claudia Grant, Ellen Thomas, Scott Miller, and Andrew Frame in The Wife of Willesden.

Perkins does a wonderful job of performing this beast of a role. It can be challenging to keep an audience's attention for almost ninety minutes but she does it extremely well. She excels at bringing different levels to the role. She is serious when she needs to be serious but fun when she needs fun. The entirety of the cast are truly excellent storytellers. Everyone gets their moments to shine and there was not a single weak link in the cast. Aside from Perkins, everyone in the cast plays multiple roles and there was never a moment where I got two characters confused.

In order to give a good performance, the cast needs to have a good script and they got one from Zadie Smith. Smith does a great job of keeping everything moving. Though there were truthfully some moments where I thought the play spent a little too long on a subject or said the same thing multiple times, I was truly entertained the entire time.

This was a truly visually stunning show. When you walk into the theatre you are greeted by a large pub set (designed by Robert Jones). The pub feels cozy and there are even audience seats on the stage. There are walls full of alcohol bottles which often had lighting that changed colors to help set the mood (lighting was designed by Guy Hoare).

THE WIFE OF WILLESDEN isn't going to leave you with big thoughts and most likely won't change your life but it's a truly fun night out and the theatre and you will not regret seeing it.

The Wife of Willesden
Marcus Adolphy, George Eggay, Andrew Frame, and Claudia Grant in The Wife of Willesden.

THE WIFE OF WILLESDEN adapted by Zadie Smith from Chaucer's 'The Wife of Bath' is playing now until March 17th at the American Repertory Theater in partnership with B.A.M and Kiln Theatre. The play is directed by Indhu Rubasingham and features designs by Robert Jones (set), Guy Hoare (lighting), and Ben and Max Ringham (composers and sound). Tickets and other information may be found at the A.R.T. website.

Photo Credit: Marc Brenner