THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR Now On Stage In Stratford
Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino brings Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor close to home with a joyous production set in a small town not unlike Stratford, Ontario, in 1953, the year the Festival began.
This delightful romp features Geraint Wyn Davies as Falstaff, a portly knight, who pursues two married women at the same time - Mrs. Ford, played by Sophia Walker, and Mrs. Page, played by Brigit Wilson - failing to consider that his targets might, quite literally, compare notes. Nor has he reckoned on the mischievous spirit in which the wives will use their wits and wiles to teach him the error of his ways.
The Merry Wives of Windsor is said to have been written at the command of Queen Elizabeth I, who had adored the character of Falstaff in Shakespeare's two parts of Henry IV.
In her program notes, Dr. Jessica Riddell muses on the delight the aging Queen Elizabeth, who had herself endured the attentions of obsequious but persistent suitors, might have taken in the justice the merry wives mete out.
"A play about female comeuppance in a world of boys behaving badly is the perfect recipe for a girls' night out - both at Elizabeth's court and in our own contemporary context," Riddell says.
"The Merry Wives of Windsor is the only play Shakespeare set in his own contemporary time and place," says Cimolino. "Yet it somehow has the feeling of a memory play. Ben Jonson accused Shakespeare, his friend and rival, of having 'small Latin and less Greek,' and this play features a Latin lesson taken by a struggling young student named Will. Might the rural, small-town community in Merry Wives be modelled on the Stratford of the playwright's youth?
"We can't know that for sure, but we can certainly see that the hero of this play is the community, and that community is led - by example, at least - by two remarkable women. Alice Ford and Meg Page, the 'merry wives' of the title, take whatever ill fortune offers them and, through wit, wisdom, and brio, ensure a happy outcome for themselves and those they love. And so much of the healing comes by way of characters using theatre to subvert and delight. This, then, is a production set in a small town, in the not too distant past, where eccentric characters and remarkable women make the world a bit better through play-acting and theatre."
The creative team includes Designer Julie Fox, Lighting Designer Jason Hand, Composer Berthold Carrière, Lyricist Marion Adler, Sound Designer Thomas Ryder Payne, Fight Director Anita Nittoly and Movement Director Valerie Moore.
Previews of The Merry Wives of Windsor are now underway at the Festival Theatre and the production officially opens on June 1. For tickets and more information, visit stratfordfestival.ca or call the box office at 1.800.567.1600.
The character of Falstaff will also provide a hot topic across several events at the Forum. In The Faces of Falstaff (July 3), Geraint Wyn Davies joins scholar Lynne Magnusson, Stratford Festival Archivist Liza Giffen and moderator Robert Cushman to discuss the character's transformation across the four plays in which he appears. Then, for a different take, Antoni Cimolino will moderate Boys Behaving Badly (August 21), a panel examining male privilege and entitlement with journalist and author Shereen El Feki, Stratford Festival company member Irene Poole and Jacqueline Wernimont, Distinguished Chair of Digital Humanities and Social Engagement and Associate Professor of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Dartmouth College.
For tickets and a full list of the Forum events, which are offered almost every day throughout the season, please visit: stratfordfestival.ca/WhatsOn/TheForum.
Support for the Forum is generously provided by Kelly & Michael Meighen and The T.R. Meighen Family Foundation.
Production support for The Merry Wives of Windsor is generously provided by Jane Petersen Burfield & family, by Dr. Desta Leavine in memory of Pauline Leavine, and by Dr. M. Lee Myers.
Support for the 2019 season of the Festival Theatre is generously provided by Daniel Bernstein and Claire Foerster.
By William Shakespeare
May 11 - October 26; opens Saturday, June 1
Festival Theatre, 55 Queen Street, Stratford, Ontario
Tickets: $23.50 to $201
Box office: 1-800-567-1600
This production is dedicated to the memory of Ian Watson, actor, teacher and esteemed member of the Festival's coaching staff.