Ghost Light Theatre, 146 Bridge Street, Nelson

18/04/2019 - 18/04/2019

New Athenaeum Theatre, 24 The Octagon, Dunedin

04/04/2019 - 05/04/2019

4th Wall Theatre, New Plymouth

25/05/2019 - 25/05/2019

Globe 2, Globe Theatre, 312 Main St, Palmerston North

04/05/2019 - 04/05/2019

Gryphon Theatre, 22 Ghuznee Street, Wellington

17/09/2019 - 21/09/2019

The Sparrow & Boyle Comedy Festival

Production Details

Sir John Falstaff, the fat knight, is coming to town. Short of money to pay his men, Falstaff attempts to woo Mistress Page and Mistress Ford at the same time. When the wives discover his intentions, they seek revenge – getting the whole town of Windsor involved in the process! Featuring the infamous knight, a Welsh parson, a flamboyant hotel owner, a drunk pickpocket, and many more memorable characters.

The Merry Wives of Windsor is one of Shakespeare’s best loved comedies. This interactive version of the play brings the bard’s crazy array of characters to life, all played by one (very fit) award-winning actress. Visit the town of Windsor – maybe you’ll have the chance to interact with Falstaff yourself…

Katie Boyle is one of NZ’s most prolific Shakespearean actors, with 10 Elizabethan productions performed over the last 5 years, including an all-female Hamlet at the Pop-Up Globe (Guildenstern and Laertes).

Invercargill Repertory, Invercargill
Friday 29 March 2019

The New Athenaeum Theatre, Dunedin
Thursday 4 – Friday 5 April 2019

Gore Repertory, Gore
Saturday 6 April 2019

Yonder, Queenstown
Sunday 7 April 2019

The Sail Bar & Cafe, Timaru
Thursday 11 April 2019

Mt Hutt Memorial Hall Theatrette, Methven
Friday 12 April 2019

Old Lodge Theatre, Hokitika
Wednesday 17 April 2019

GHOST LIGHT Theatre, Nelson
Thursday 18 April 2019

Village Theatre, Takaka
Saturday 20 April

Chanel Arts Centre, Motueka
Sunday 21 April 2019

Globe Theatre, Palmerston North
Saturday 4 May 2019

Evolution Theatre, Gisborne
Friday 17 May 2019

Shambles Theatre, Rotorua
Thursday 23 May 2019

4th Wall Theatre, New Plymouth
Saturday 25 May 2019

Lucky Bar + Kitchen, Whanganui
Sunday 26 May 2019

Kapiti Playhouse, Paraparumu
Thursday 30 May 2019

Newtown Cultural & Community Centre, Wellington
Saturday 1 June 2019

Picton Little Theatre, Picton
Saturday 29 June 2019

Expressions Whirinaki Arts & Entertainment Centre, Upper Hutt
Saturday 13 July 2019

Gryphon Theatre, Wellington
Tuesday 10 – Saturday 14 September 2019

Theatre , Solo ,

1 hr 30 min incl. interval

Played with engaging charm and extraordinary equanimity

Review by John Smythe 18th Sep 2019

Why this; why now? ‘Classics’ in the theatrical repertoire usually resurface when their timeless and universal themes are especially pertinent. For example the rarely done Measure for Measure is suddenly back in favour worldwide because it speaks to #metoo and #timesup.

The Merry Wives of Windsor – in which the Sir John Falstaff, fallen on hard times, simultaneously tries to woo two rich wives, Meg Page and Alice Ford, and gets his come-uppance – is another a timely critique on how some men assume their power and privilege entitles them to prey on women. In putting the case for Emilia Bassano’s involvement in the development of plays ascribed to Shakespeare, Elizabeth Winkler includes Windsor’s wives in her examples of remarkable female friendships, quoting: “Let’s consult together against this greasy knight.”

Scholars tell us we have Queen Elizabeth I to thank for the existence of this play; she demanded a comedy about Falstaff in love after seeing him in Henry IV Part 1. What was delivered is a merciless satire depicting Falstaff (consider that name for a moment)* in unrequited lust – and the full three-hour version, riddled with dramatic complications, was an oft-produced crowd favourite in the late 16th century.

Katie Boyle’s solo version, directed by Alexander Sparrow, reduces it to 90 minutes including an interval. (Gone is the counterpointing sub-plot where the course of true love is finally allowed to flourish between Mistress Anne Page and the impoverished Fenton, whose scenes are the only ones in blank verse, not to mention the complication of two other suitors for Anne.)

The focus is entirely on Falstaff’s devious plot and the ingenious counterplot whereby Meg Page and Alice Ford – alerted by the errant knight’s disaffected followers, Nym and Pistol – put the slavering Falstaff into ignominious positions to serve him right. Meanwhile Alice Ford’s suspicious husband complicates the issue by disguising himself to prove her infidelity and is likewise embarrassed. Is it any wonder I’m drawn to the idea a woman had a hand in writing this?

With engaging charm and extraordinary equanimity, Boyle plays it all out in an exquisitely modulated performance that clearly defines each character – Falstaff, Pistol, Nym and Mistress Quickly are especially comedic – and keeps the plot moving while maintaining a cheekily interactive and instantly responsive relationship with her audience.

Her challenge is the greater when key characters pretend to be otherwise while in scenes involving multiple characters, some of whom we glimpse only fleetingly. But her way of embodying each character and situation, allowing stillness and silence to be as eloquent as words, ensures we follow the story as well as we might in a fully cast production.

Katie Boyle is an exceptional actress and her Merry Wives of Windsor is well worth your time attention.
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*Legend has it the character was based on Sir John Oldcastle, a friend of Henry V, and was named as such until one of his descendants, Lord Cobham, complained to Shakespeare and urged him to change it.


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A mammoth effort and a resounding success

Review by Taryn Utiger 26th May 2019

Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some, like Katie Boyle, thrust greatness upon the world.  

Boyle’s one-woman take on William Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor is an exceptional display of the length and depth of her talents as an actress, and more importantly, a storyteller.  

In true Elizabethan style this production strips back any fancy sets and elaborate costumes you may be used to, and instead offers a near bare stage, an actor who is exceedingly good and a script that has withstood the test of time.

From the very moment Boyle steps on stage the audience is eased into using their collective imagination to see a tapestry where there is a man, a disguise where there is merely a scarf and a horde of fairies fluttering next to them.

Boyle has the unenviable task of telling this delightful story all by herself and, under the masterly direction of Alexander Sparrow, she does it with mind blowing skill, gliding between 16 different characters with finesse and precision.

Her physical characterisation of the many roles almost tells the story in itself, as she bounces from hunched over and old, to tall and fat, then launches into lithe and sexy. She is a shapeshifter who seems to be able to change her form at will. Her vocal control is the cherry on top of this physicalisation and she plays with vocal techniques like a child in a toy shop.

While Boyle is excellent in each of her many roles, it is Sir John Falstaff who steals the spotlight. The loveable buffoon is one of the world’s most well-known comic characters and Boyle confidently does him justice. The audience has their fill of belly laughs as the fat knight’s shenanigans backfire on him and we are left with an understanding of just why Queen Elizabeth I found so much delight in this character.

In lesser hands this one-woman version of The Merry Wives of Windsor could be too confusing to enjoy for those who aren’t familiar with the play. However, Boyle establishes her conventions quickly, and ultimately has an impressive grasp of the meaning behind Shakespeare’s words.   

Her superb acting abilities amplify her grasp of his language, allowing her to impart the meaning of the story even to those who may find it hard to follow the dialogue. And just like in Shakespeare’s time, there’s enough made of the exceptionally bawdy jokes to keep the unruliest entertained while the rest of us enjoy the story.

There’s no denying this show is a mammoth effort and a resounding success. It truly does thrust Boyle’s great talents into the spotlight, while reminding us why we have loved the Bard for so many decades. 


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Short, sharp, standout Shakespeare

Review by Shivarn Stewart 05th May 2019

One-man (or woman) Shakespeare is an ambitious project – but Katie Boyle delivers comedy gold in this new touring performance. Impeccably paced and supported by simple costuming and lighting, Merry Wives of Windsor is a delight for Shakespeare fans.

Boyle delivers standout performances of the play’s key comedy trio: Mistress Page, Master Ford and, of course, Sir Falstaff himself. You can practically see the grease stains from a chicken dinner running down Flastaff’s shirt in your mind, while he is completely erased in Mistress Page’s poised femininity. Meanwhile, Master Ford is a spitting fury, all fighting spirit and no sense. Boyle could deliver a masterclass in physicality and facial transformations, and is clearly a phenomenal talent.

Boyle’s comedy background is well displayed through her excellent use of audience interaction – just enough to keep people on their toes, and add extra ‘real-life’ laughs to the play’s created ones. She also knows exactly when to break character, which is often many people’s favourite thing about any Shakespearean show.

One minor disappointment come from the venue – hearing lobby music playing through the doors is a distraction. A bit more thought on this would be appreciated to ensure performers are allowed to truly shine. For Boyle herself, one area to keep an eye on would be ensuring her characterisation in the second half – while incredibly clear in the first half, there are a few slips in the second where character’s voices became harder to identify. 

Within the one-woman format this show is a perfect demonstration of Shakespearean highs and lows. When the action is underway the laughter is fast and furious, though during slower scenes it can be hard to follow the many minor characters. Nevertheless, overall it is great fun to watch, whether you’ve encountered the Merry Wives before or are coming in for a fast-paced, short, sharp, standout introduction.


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Courageous, bawdy, raucous, comic, hugely entertaining

Review by Ruth Allison 18th Apr 2019

Cool things are happening in the world of theatre. Young New Zealanders are getting their acts together (excuse the pun) and with unbounded enthusiasm, energy galore and skills a plenty, providing audiences with evenings of pure pleasure. Katie Boyle’s one-woman version of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor is just such a one: rollicking, fast-paced, seductive. This is a courageous and hugely entertaining 90 minutes of bawdy, raucous, comic Shakespeare. 

The merry wives are scheming, clever, vixens. Sir John Falstaff is arrogant, pompous and extremely large.  Merchant Ford is suitably misguided, full of sexual jealousy and prone to make a fool of himself. Along with myriad other smaller characters, Shakespeare’s play is unravelled in an instant.  The ever-hopeful Falstaff is crammed into an evil smelling laundry basket, disguised as Mistress Ford’s maid’s obese Aunt and beaten black and blue, encouraged to wear a set of deer antlers in his role as Herne the Hunter, and pinched and burned by fairies for his efforts. All this from one woman.

Boyle creates mischief and mayhem. Quick to respond with repartee, she berates her audience, extolls unwitting individuals to take the part of an arras (a wall hanging used to conceal an alcove) and races with spectacular physical stamina around the theatre. She is a force. She is clever, funny and clearly loves what she does. She does it all with the minimum of props and the simplest of staging and lighting. A delightful comedienne, she brings Shakespeare to life.

Everyone goes home laughing, inspired by the prodigious talents of Boyle and Sparrow, and their willingness to take theatre on tour to New Zealanders, and the Bard to boot. Bring it on and give us more.


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Solo high-speed romp offers jolly entertainment

Review by Barbara Frame 08th Apr 2019

Performer Katie Boyle has the demanding task of performing Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor all by herself, in a single costume and without scenery.

A script pared down to not much more than an hour helps, and Boyle uses tone, facial expression and movement to distinguish characters. [More]


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A verily merry night

Review by Kate Timms-Dean 06th Apr 2019

Whither thou goest on the eve of Friday? Get ye to the New Athenaeum for a spot of Shakespeare. The night is cold, but the wine is warming and the footlights are aglow.

I’m not what you’d call a Shakespearean scholar; I read my fair share in high school and even acted in a couple – Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream – but I have never read or seen The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Like many a Shakespearian comedy, the story is based around trickery, with a cyclical air; nefarious plots are overlaid, creating a blanket of deceit and hilarity. Sir John Falstaff (Katie Boyle), a cumbersome oaf, is the primary trickster, but ultimately the butt of everyone’s joke, as his machinations to bed the wives (also Katie Boyle) come undone. In fact, Katie Boyle is every character from Sir Falstaff down to the page boy. Her portrayal is par excellence. Even the confusion of a triumvirate of tricksters is crystal clear. 

In a story of many characters with overlaying plots and mischievous disguises all performed by a lone, albeit accomplished, actor, the potential for confusion is enormous, particularly when the reviewer on hand is wholly unfamiliar with the work. And yet Boyle is totally up to the task, rendering each character with precision and fabulous humour. This is hard work, physically and vocally, but Boyle is fully up to it; she is a powerhouse. 

For me, 2019 has been a year of one-woman plays. These have shone like diamonds against the many other performances I have enjoyed. Tonight is no exception. My fellow audience members are in agreement – we laugh; we laugh a lot. And is the night merry? Verily!


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