THE beautiful barns of Ashley Wood Farm near Tisbury were a home-from- home for the Creative Cow company, whose rehearsals are held in a Devon agricultural building with perplexed cows looking on.
On 29th September the new production of Shakespeare’s farcical comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor was performed at the “new” Tisbury venue after the company’s successful performances in the Victoria Hall – and a delightful move it was.
Amanda Knott’s fast and furious production manages to abridge the original so that it can be performed by six actors, with none of the story or the fun missed.
Company regular Jack Hulland is the ideal man to play the fat knight Sir John Falstaff, a drunken and cowardly elderly man who is still convinced of his own irresistible attractions for women.
When he discovers that he has eaten and drunk his way though his meagre funds, he decides to woo the wife of a wealthy merchant in Windsor, where he now lives. And just in the unlikely event that she doesn’t succumb to his charms, he might as well woo a second wife.
But it never occurs to him that the two women might exchange confidences, and before long Mistress Page and Mistress Ford have conspired to take revenge on Falstaff’s importunate behaviour.
This production is big on movement and spectacle, starting with the wives circling the table at which the knight guzzles, and ending in a fairy-lit wood, Falstaff replete with antlers and the rest as nipping fairies.
There are terrific performances, notably from Katherine Senior as a Margot-esque Mistress Page and a hilariously slow of speech Mistress Quickly, and recent graduate Sean Aydon as a host of well defined characters. Jack Wharrier, a memorable Mercutio with Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, joins Creative Cow as two of Ann Page’s suitors, the language mangling Dr Cauis and the foppish Slender, as well as the jealous Ford and the Host of the Garter.
Take your eyes off the action for a second and one of the company is someone else in this inventive and hugely enjoyable production.
It returns to the south west from Thursday 31st October to Saturday 2nd November at the New Theatre in Exeter and ends the tour at the Regal in Minehead on Sunday 3rd November.