Rose Gardens, Victoria Esplanade, Palmerston North

03/03/2016 - 12/03/2016

Production Details

“Wives may be merry, and yet honest too.”  

Manawatu Summer Shakespeare, supported by Massey University, has been an annual event within the Palmerston North community since 2003. Each year an artist in residence is chosen to direct a production of their choice in order to collaborate with students, local artists and the community. Following on from last year’s dark tragedy King Lear, Summer Shakespeare brings fun back to the Esplanade with the light-hearted comedy that is The Merry Wives of Windsor.

The Merry Wives of Windsor by Sir William Shakespeare was first published in 1602 and was the 18th show he ever wrote. Merry Wives is a revenge filled, vivacious, energy packed comedy filled with themes of love and marriage, jealousy, social class and wealth. Explored with irony, sexual innuendo, and sarcasm, The Merry Wives of Windsor promises an evening of laughter and revelry for both cast and audience alike. Down on his luck, Falstaff seeks to woo the affluent Mistress Page and Mistress Ford but can he compete against a jealous husband? Amongst marriage proposals, dangerous duels and some meddling Mistresses, can Falstaff outwit the women of Windsor or will he end up ransacked in the river?

Come along and enjoy an evening of theatre in the park and eat, drink and be merry with us! “Wives may be merry, and yet honest too”.

The artist in residence and director this year is local Kelly Harris. Kelly has worked as a Drama and English teacher for the past 10 years. Having trained at Massey University, she has remained in the local area and has worked on numerous community projects, culminating in creating her own theatre company, Skin Theatre, in 2013. Earlier this year, Kelly spent two months in London studying and learning at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre as a part of the Shakespeare’s Globe Centre NZ Emerging Theatre Practitioners programme, where she worked with students in Southwark on Henry V and Much Ado about Nothing, and was mentored by Globe Education Practitioners. She also spent two weeks there in 2011, as a teacher for the SGCNZ Teachers Go Global programme. Kelly has had five of her students selected to join the NZ Young Shakespeare Company, and she has own National awards for her work with students and SGCNZ. 

The Victoria Esplanade, The Rose Gardens, Palmerston North.
Thursday 3rd – Sunday 6th March
Thursday 10th March – Saturday 12th March 
7.00pm (3rd, 4th, 5th, 10th, 11th, 12th) and matinee 2.30pm Sunday 6th only 
Tickets: The show is Koha entry

Wet weather venue, The Wool Building, University Ave, Turitea Campus, Massey University 

Mistress Page: Maree Gibson
Page: Mike Pyefinch
Anne Page: Maggie Webster-Shadbolt
Cleo Page: Juliette Green
Mistress Ford: Hannah Pratt
Ford/Brook: Matt Waldin
Servant of Ford house – Iras: Polly Pyefinch
Servant of Ford house – Nerissa: Georgina Wheller
Sir John Falstaff: Tobias James Lockhart
Robin: Danelle Walker
Pistol: Brianna Shaw 
Nym: Regulus VanHelsing 
Bardolph: Sasha Lipinsky 
Host of the Garter: Mark Kilsby 
Fenton: Sean Metcalf 
Slender: Aaron McLean 
Simple: Sarah-Paige Sturm 
Shallow: Philip Mills 
Mistress Priest Evelyn Evans: Catherine Tubby (Bradley) 
Dr. Caius: Ethan Burmeister 
Rugby: Alexandra Bellad-Ellis 
Mistress Quickly Sisters: Shivarn Stewart, Jess McLean 

Executive Producer: Angie Farrow 
Producer: Karen Newton 
Director: Kelly Harris 
Stage Management: Chelsea Green 
Stage Management: Rhian Firmin 
Publicity: Rhian Firmin 
Choreography: Kristin Reilly 
Sound + Lighting technician: Pierce Barber 
Set Design + Construction: Nic Green 
Costume Design + Construction: Lana Sklenars 

Theatre ,

Works well enough, in its fashion

Review by John C Ross 05th Mar 2016

The performance begins and ends with a full-cast dance, competent and happy enough. And as Winnie the Pooh might have said: Nobody could be uncheered by such a dance.  

The Merry Wives of Windsor is one of the Bard’s lesser comedies, and needs a lot of cutting, which here it gets, done reasonably well. The whole show runs through without an interval, without going on too long. It’s adapted too, to provide more parts for girls, including male roles become female, and a fair bit of romping-around.   

What’s left further foregrounds the two ‘wives’: Mistress Page (Maree Gibson) and Mistress Ford (Hannah Pratt). Sir John Falstaff (Toby Lockhart) sets off to try to bonk either or, preferably, both of them. Chasing just one of them might even have worked, but sending identically-worded saucy love-letters to both of them soon gets found out when they meet and gossip, and from that point they set out to “be revenged on him” for this insult.

Still, for the play to remain comedic it’s vital that Falstaff, however much he gets knocked-about and humiliated, still manages to bounce back up, sooner or later (otherwise it’s just cruel). Toby Lockhart makes a reasonable job of Falstaff, yet it would be nice if he could be allowed his last lines, to bounce a bit with, in character.

At any rate, having good strong performances from Maree Gibson and, especially, Hannah Pratt provides the heart of the production. There’s also a strong performance by Matt Waldin as Ford, with his masquerade as Brooke giving him good opportunities for expressive double-takes. 

In the subplot, Maggie Webster-Shadbolt as the daughter Anne Page, sought by several suitors, has a finely expressive scene with Slender, the feeblest of them, played in caricature fashion by Aaron McLean. She clearly has an acting future. Sean Metcalf as her preferred suitor Fenton does well in a belated cameo.  Juliette Green is sweet, as her young sister rather than her brother.

As for the other noteworthy characters, Mark Kilsby makes the most of his role as the Host of the Garter Inn and Phillip Mills and Mike Pyefinch are sound enough as Justice Shallow and Master Page. Ethan Burmeister as Dr Caius, and Catherine Tubby (Bradley), playing Sir Hugh Evans the Welsh parson as a female, need to tone down their assumed accents, Caius especially being all too often incomprehensible, at least to me.

Much of the fun, all the same, is provided by sundry minions and servants. One can’t name them all. The role of Mistress Quickly is split between Jess McLean and Shivarn Stewart who vividly enjoy their character’s chances to make mischief. Falstaff’s enjoyably ruffianish followers are Brie Shaw (Pistol), Sasha Lipinsky (Bardolph) and Regulus Van Helsing (Nym). 

The outdoor venue, utilising a large tree and a minimum of scenic props, devised by Nic Green, at the inward end of the rose garden, works reasonably well, with the actors usually close enough to the audience to avoid acoustic difficulties. Lana Sklenars’ costuming is a curious and enjoyable medley.

This is not one of the more dazzling Summer Shakespeare productions, such as last year’s King Lear. Unlike some others, no part of it is disastrous. It works well enough, in its fashion – much credit is due to the director Kelly Harris.  


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