Riverside Terrace, Hamilton

22/02/2016 - 28/02/2016

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2016

Production Details

The legendary Summer Shakespeare is back with a play never before performed [in Hamilton].

The scurrilous Sir John Falstaff has come to Windsor with no funds and a plan to scam the local housewives. However, these canny ladies hatch their own plot and make a total fool of him.

A melange of hilarious characters, fantastic insults and barely comprehensible Frenchmen!

Riverside Terrace
Mon 22 Feb 2016, 7pm
Tue 23 Feb 2016, 7pm
Thu 25 Feb 2016, 7pm
Sun 28 Feb 2016, 5am

Tickets: Gold Coin Donation

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Theatre ,

“Don’t you love outdoor theatre?”

Review by Cate Prestidge 23rd Feb 2016

Gather all ye gentlefolk, for the annual summer Shakespeare is upon us! A much loved tradition at the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival, this year Director Ross MacLeod introduces the audience to the comedy requested (allegedly) by Elizabeth I after seeing Henry VI. I immediately envisage a messenger dispatched to The Globe: “More Falstaff, and make it funny!”

My friend and I have walked down a path off car park 1 to the Riverside Terrace. There are plenty of chairs and some people have also brought blankets and have set up on the grass near the stage. This proves to be a wise choice as while the riverside location is delightful, it’s also close to a tree full of cicadas and this makes it pretty challenging all round.  

The scene is established with a group of Windsor gentlemen offering up a stream of accusations against Sir John Falstaff for his thievery and taking of liberties. This sets us up to enjoy some more bad behaviour and well-deserved comic retribution. Falstaff’s wardrobe is also taking liberties as Antony Aiono appears in a sloppy sartorial riot of purple, possibly designed so we can better “examine his parts”.

Aiono has good stage presence – pausing dramatically to let a helicopter pass (don’t you love outdoor theatre?) – and uses his voice well as the overstuffed, unlikeable Falstaff. Unfortunately, it is hard to hear the dialogue with sidekick Nym (Courtney Nielsen). She has very good characterisation and focus so I’d love the audience to be able to enjoy the full extent of her performance.  

Director Ross MacLeod is great as the dim suitor Slender; all the more impressive as he stepped into the role two weeks before the production started due to an injury. Graeme Cairns as the jealous Mr Ford is excellent, lifting every scene he is in with his high energy levels and clear voice.

The Host, David Sutcliff, is also confident and vocally strong, with just the right degree of over-exaggeration. David Garrity milks the laughs as the volatile French Doctor Caius and the audience enjoys almost incomprehensible arguments with the Welsh Pastor Evans (Tim Kapoor).

As the light-hearted wives, bent on humiliating Falstaff after his unseemly advances, Maria Eaton (Mistress Page) and Pip Smith (Mistress Ford) look to be having a ball. A well-timed shriek or two never goes amiss in a farce, and they both use the stage to full effect with exaggerated poses and voices.  

Meddlesome Mistress Quickly (Hannah Grant) has a subtle slyness but many of the bawdy puns her character is noted for are lost in the outdoor setting. I think Grant is a lovely actor so I hope she can also project more for the next performance. 

The performers make good use of the two entrance and exit points, and use simple props to define different scenes. A farce needs very quick responses and overlapping dialogue, something that wasn’t quite there on the night for all players, but while some are clearly more at ease on stage, it is evident that the group are working together well and supporting each other with cues and energy levels.

If you don’t know the play I’d recommend a quick read of the synopsis before you go so you can enjoy the performances without having to follow every word. To have a really comfortable evening I’d also recommend a light blanket or jumper, insect repellant and suggest you try and sit near the front if you can. Look for the traditional 5am Sunday performance if you’re an early bird. 


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