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Girls on Film!

The RSC's Merry Wives of Windsor was screened live to 500 cinemas this week - and guess who's caught on film?

Two female actors in modern Elizabethan dress on stage in front of a mock-Tudor house

“Merry wives” Rebecca Lacey, left, as Mistress Page, and Beth Cordingly, right, as Mistress Ford. Production photo by Manuel Harlan c RSC.

Yes, if you were watching I was in Seat 67, Row B!

But don’t worry I won’t let the fame go to my head…

Fiona Laird’s very witty production of The Merry Wives of Windsor at the RST in Stratford-upon-Avon is proving such a hit with female audiences the RSC organised their first glamorous women-only networking event at The Other Place. A massive thank you, we had a blast!

Balloons and red carpet outside the RSC's Studio theatre, The Other Place

The red-carpet was out at The Other Place

Not only did we get the red-carpet treatment but were treated to an evening of pink champagne, pampering (thanks to therapists from Elan Spa at Mallory Court in Leamington) and delicious canapes. The highlight was a fab talk by the glamorous and super-talented director herself about the women who’ve inspired her, including her mother and grandmother, before the live cinema screening at the main theatre.

Director Fiona Laird, right, in rehearsal on set with actor David Acton, who plays Welsh parson Sir Hugh Evans. Photo by Beatrice Updegraff.

Fiona said: “I’m actually really scared – it’s really wonderful to have so many women in the audience.

“I was very happy when Greg Doran asked me to direct The Merry Wives of Windsor. The women have the upper-hand from the beginning.

“Please know I have made his for women, so you can just enjoy yourself and laugh at men.

“This is a man’s world… it’s important we stick together!”

She cited rising theatre director Polly Findlay as a brilliant role model for young female creatives who proves “you can have a fantastic career and has just had a baby!”.

David Troughton’s Falstaff and extended codpiece pointing in the direction of Mistress Ford, Beth Cordingly

If you haven’t seen this critically-acclaimed comedy yet, book tickets pronto, as the Stratford run ends soon, and take your best mates. You’ll have an absolute scream!

What’s the story?: Hard-drinking Sir John Falstaff – ‘the fat knight’ – decides to restore his fortunes by seducing two married women, Mistress Page and Mistress Ford. But his biggest downfall is underestimating their intelligence and friendship. For a start he tries to woo them with identical twin ‘love-letters’ – doh! – a fact they indignantly discover while at a beauty salon (Mistress Page: “I warrant he hath a thousand of these letters, writ with a blank space for different names”). They plot their good-humoured revenge on Falstaff, hilariously involving a wheelie-bin. This gag-filled slapstick farce has a splendid cast.

Falstaff’s follower Pistol, Afolabi Alli, and jealous husband Frank Ford, played by Vince Leigh.

Our favourite bits? Beth Cordingly and Rebecca Lacey’s lovely portrayal of strong female camaraderie as the “merry wives” delightfully playing the men off against each other; the ‘wheelie-bin scene’ (you’ll wince); David Troughton as Falstaff with his permanently extended codpiece and fat suit is excellent; Spy monkey’s Toby Park physical comedy; Lez Brotherston’s ingenious costumes and an array of cartoonish comic characters.

Karen Fishwick’s Anne Page

These include Karen Fishwick’s turn as pouting, pooch-loving soon-to-be-wed Anne Page; Ishia Bennison’s Mistress Quickly, Tom Padley’s nice-but-dim bucktoothed Slender, one of Anne’s suitors; Jonathan Cullen’s mispronouncing hot-blooded French doctor and David Acton’s sing-a-long Welsh priest.

The Merry Wives of Windsor runs at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon until Saturday Sept 22, then transfers to the Barbican, London from Dec 7 – Jan 5 2019, rsc

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