As far as I knew it, the plot of The Merry Wives was (to paraphrase Elizabeth I) laughs and a bit with a box. Falstaff and some wives? Of Windsor? Who are merry? Well, none of that is an inaccurate description for a play that is even more frothy than Twelfth Night and more contrived than Cymbeline…
Well, a bit of a storm blew up this weekend when it emerged that Shakespeare in the Park, a venerable New York institution which has been putting on productions in Central Park since the 1950s, is this year staging Julius Caesar in modern dress with a titular character who is blonde, has an eastern European wife, and (no spoiler to anyone who knows the play) get assassinated.
It’s been a busy time in the theatre world…
Holinshed and the Histories
Almost all of Shakespeare’s histories have their origins in Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland.
This was a huge amount of rollicking good fun that (despite the casting of a female Malvolia) didn’t try to make Twelfth Night carry anything more than the tale set down by Shakespeare and do it as well as possible.
Aguecheek and Belch. Photo by Marc Brenner.
Barbican – Silk Street Theatre
Photo by Johan Persson
This production was by Cheek by Jowl, a company known for the strength of their ensemble casts*, their international tours (and producing plays in a number of languages) and for their production of The Winter’s Tale which has been on in St Petersburg for 20 years. This is not that production.
I was delighted that (thanks to the Gods of the Almeida and the Old Vic) I could go and see this almost (but not quite) in repertory with Hamlet, even more pleased that I could get the order right* and then, somewhat perversely given point number one, also delighted that this was an extreme staging contrast with the Almeida’s Hamlet.