Year: 1996

Title of the play: The Merry Wives of Windsor

Author: William Shakespeare

Director: Ian Judge

Others in the Cast: Leslie Phillips, David Hobbs, Barry Aird, David Glover, Paul Greenwood, Susannah York, Cherry Morris, Joanna McCallum, Claire Marchionne, Christopher Luscombe. Full list here: 

Company/Event: Royal Shakespeare Company

Theatre and location: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

Other productions of the same play: 1997 - Barbican Theatre, London

Plot summary: Sir John Falstaff, staying in Windsor and down on his luck, decides to restore his fortunes by seducing the wives of two wealthy citizens. He sends Mistress Page and Mistress Ford identical love letters, but they discover his double dealing and set about turning the tables, arranging an assignation at Mistress Ford's house. The jealous Frank Ford has heard of Falstaff's plan and decides to test his wife's fidelity. Pretending to be Master Broom, he pays Falstaff to seduce his wife on his behalf, twice almost catching them together. The Pages' daughter Anne is pursued by three suitors. The French physician Doctor Caius is her mother's choice, whilst her father favours Slender, Justice Shallow's kinsman. Anne herself is in love with Fenton. Mistress Quickly is being paid by all three suitors to advance their cause. A duel between Doctor Caius and Parson Evans is averted when the Host of the G arter Inn plays a trick on them, and they in turn pay him back. In Windsor Great Park at night, Falstaff is set up for his final punishment -and one of Anne Page's suitors is successful. - Summary from the RSC website.

Peth’s role: Frank Ford


And, the most interesting performance of the evening, a pathetically insecure, repressed, hesitant, peaky Ford from Edward Petherbridge, frenetic in his search of every scrap of linen in the buckbasker, but embarassing too, in the humiliation to which his suspicions, and his grovelling later apology for them, condemn him, the connections with Posthumous and Claudio, those other jealous lovers elsewhere in the Stratford season) interestingly there, below the surface.  - Shakespeare Survey, Issue 27

Then there is Edward Petherbridge as Ford, the jealous husband who usually steals the show. Petherbridge has a gift for quizzical melancholy and invariably inflicts it on whatever role he plays. What he misses here is the near-demented rage and paranoia of Ford, a comic forerunner to both Othello and Leontes in The Winter's Tale. Only in the great scene in which he desperately searches the laundry basket, creating a blizzard of underwear before tumbling exhaustedly into it himself, does the performance fully ignite, though the reconciliation with his much-abused wife, warmly played by Susannah York, is genuinely touching. - Charles Spencer, The Telegraph, 28 Dec 1996

At least Edward Petherbridge, as jealous Master Ford, gives us some delightful physical silliness, slipping on the staircase then giving it a supercilious hard stare, flinging undies into the audience as he hunts for his cuckolder in the laundry basket before toppling into it. - Kate Bassett, The Telegraph

1997 - The Merry Wives of Windsor: Shakespearean sex farce. Leslie Phillips is the fat knight, with Edward Petherbridge and Susannah York in support, in a reasonably jolly staging by Ian Judge. The Independent  


Production details: Here and Here
Related links:


Original pics here 

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