The Merry Wives of Windsor - Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, Southwark
Some things in this play are the stuff of legends.
Take Hermes' oak, which is probably still standing in Windsor Forest. On stage it is represented by a stump - a huge double bed on which a weary hunter can lie while spending a night in the open.
Then there's Falstaff, the swaggering, drink-swilling knight with unbridled appetites and raucous followers. Here he is played by Christopher Benjamin, who gave a good account of the character in his heyday in Henry IV Part 1 at Regents Park not so long ago.
He conveys aristocratic charm and seems oblivious to the indignities he suffers.
Director Christopher Luscombe comes from a recent stint in an Alan Ayckbourn comedy. He notes that the good citizens of Windsor are of the middle classes. Their main concerns are congeniality, marriage prospects for Anne Page (Ellie Piercy) and stopping the fight when the doctor (Philip Bird) feels slighted by the pastor (Gareth Armstrong).
What a feat to unite this side of the play with Falstaff. One tactic is to have a soundtrack of background music as in contemporary sitcom movies. It helps to keep the laughs coming.
High points in the comedy are the gestures of Andrew Havill as Frank Ford disguised as Brook, when he eggs the roving Falstaff on in order to test his wife's fidelity.
And there are the slap and clap gestures made by Alice Ford (Sarah Woodward) and Meg Page (Serena Evans) as they prepare to give Falstaff his comeuppance for presuming on them. Much sport is made of the laundry basket and its contents.
The costumes are Elizabethan. Bright colours mark out Abraham Slender (Will Belchambers) as less than serious for the hand of Anne Page.
The appearance of the old women of Brentford is a delight. A walkway extends out from the stage over the pit and includes a pop-up garden.
The music is played on period instruments such as good old shawms and sackbuts so the background soundtrack is very much what Shakespeare might have employed.