“I hope we shall drink down all unkindness” are the first lines written across the programme – and to drink we are most aptly encouraged!
Shakespeare BASH’d returns to the Toronto Fringe this July after being selected as one of 2012’s Best of Fringe. This time, Shakespeare BASH’d gives us this ridiculously funny and surprisingly intimate site-specific production of The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Victory Café.
Directed by James Wallis and Catherine Rainville, this seamless production follows Mistress Page (Julia Nish-Lapidus) and Mistress Ford (Suzette McCanny) as they concoct a wild plan to humiliate Sir John Falstaff (Sean Sullivan), a fat king intent on seducing the women in order to gain their husbands' wealth. While the women work to exploit Falstaff’s greediness, Page attempts to find a proper suitor for his daughter Ann Page (Jade Douris). In the meantime, Ann Page and Fenton (Drew O'Hara) fall in love and attempt to gain approval for their marriage.
Prior to performance time, the cast comes storming outside and greets the audience members lined up outside the venue, leading us all to the performance area on the third floor. Before curtain, the cast interacts with the audience in character, transitioning directly into the show and keeping the energy up for the rest of the night. The ensemble members are truly the core of the show; their passion and enthusiasm for Shakespeare’s farce is detailed brilliantly in the simplest of facial expressions and movements in such a small space.
The Victory Café compliments this production’s tiny set up, successfully establishing an intimate relationship with the audience as they fully acknowledge our presence; this puts us smack in the center of the action as scenes are carried out in the aisles between seats. At one point, Sir John Falstaff hides between the audience beside me and even takes the hat off my head to use as a disguise from the actors. It was beyond hilarious and clever, keeping us engaged.
All in all, Shakespeare BASH’d gives us a version of this play that is made to feel modern and important by keeping the energy level on extreme high. This company is more than fantastic at farce and they truly reignite the cleverness and wittiness of Shakespeare’s comedies. So, sit back, have a pint and observe as the madness unfolds.
The Merry Wives of Windsor runs at the Toronto Fringe until July 12. For more information visit www.fringetoronto.com.