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The Merry Wives | The Bedford

This production was a brilliant take on William Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor. I've never seen or read Shakespeare's original play so went into this musical completely blind and with great excitement.

Performed for one night only at The Bedford in South London, (before transferring to Whitley Bay), The Merry Wives is written by Gary Thomas and performed by an all female cast of nine actors.

The show perfectly combined some Shakespearean text, spoken predominantly by Charlotte Louise Allan as Mrs Page, along with a score of songs in a pop style sung by the whole company. The score included some well known pop songs, including Cher's 'If I could turn back time', which was a hit with the audience. The show was fast paced and energetic, a nice contrast from the usually very long and slow Shakespeare plays.

The casting was absolutely brilliant and each of the performers completely embodied their character. Standouts for me were Dev Joshi as Anne, Teegan Hurley as Slender and Jessica Pardoe as Falstaff. Joshi's vocals were absolutely beautiful. Each word was crystal clear and sung with such passion and meaning. Hurley's Slender was a character I loved from the moment he was onstage. The audience was made to feel for him and his conflicts of being a gay prince, who's not come out to his family, being forced into marriage with Anne, who equally has her eyes on another man who from a royal background and therefore not approved of by her family. There was not a single scene where Jessica Pardoe did not get a laugh from the audience. From the comedic acting to the vocalisation for the male role, this portrayal was absolutely perfect. Tamsin Lynes had some incredible comedy moments as Mr Ford, involving a false beard to act as Mr Brook, and the facial expressions remained clear even with over half the face being covered.

The direction by David O'Mahony made great use of the space, using the upper balcony of the venue as a way of showing characters in separate locations as well as being the position of the live band. The velvet curtain along the back of the space was lit nicely by the LED's above it and provided a simplistic but effective backdrop for a fictional show set in current times centred around royalty.

The technical elements were where this show disappointed me. The piece was performed with hand held microphones for the songs which was definitely necessary volume wise but caused some distraction and technical issues due to cabling becoming wrapped around people, as well as becoming unplugged mid number (quickly fixed by a cast member before the next song). I personally felt the band was at times a little overpowering when a solo was being performed, making it hard to hear what was being sung, but during group numbers it was okay. The microphone stands were positioned along the front of the stage and for me were a constant distraction from the performance. I understand the need for wired microphones due to budgeting, but feel these could have been positioned better, such as at the back of the stage rather than the front to avoid them taking up valuable stage space and being in the way.

The lighting was very flashy and at times I felt was very much wrong for the circumstances onstage. The lights looked like a disco during almost every song and the moving lights were incredibly fast, hitting the audience a lot, and for me was a little blinding and a further distraction to the actors. Because of this use of the lights there were also moments where the actors onstage weren't even lit as they were singing. The show also could have benefitted from smoother lighting changes rather than lots of snap effects which became very dazzling due to the lights being close to the audience. Overall the scenes were lit in a better way than the songs.

Overall this was a really fun night out and was a laugh out loud modern retelling of a classic Shakespeare story.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | written by Becky (@beckystheatrelife)


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