Featured Articles

Part of my effort to see every Shakespeare play.

Merry Wives of Windsor was the first Shakespeare I’ve ever encountered that made no pretence to be literature, and is not treated as such by teachers and people who would make me study what are living, breathing texts. Allegedly it was written at the behest of Elizabeth I, who loved the character of Falstaff in Shakespeare’s earlier plays and demanded a play where he was the main character.

It is one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays, which probably explains why this RSC production opens with an actual introductory credits on a projector, presumably because they couldn’t rely on the audience knowing who everyone is. And that is a shame, because it was absolutely hilarious and I think one of my favourite plays.

Falstaff is a knight who has gone to seed and arrives in Windsor short on money and determined to marry well in his old age. He therefore attempts to woo the wives of two gentlemen in Windsor by sending them identical loveletters, but the two women are friends and, after swapping notes, decide to have fun with this rapacious, gross man. Unfortunately their husbands find out about the loveletters too, and one of them takes it seriously, and commissions Falstaff to seduce his own wife, so he can know she is an adulterer. The stage is set, as it were, for a ridiculous comedy of people trying to hide from each other while spying or seducing someone else, and eventually realising they are the dupe themselves.


So gross, and so well acted.

There are minor changes – the play is set in Essex and this was reflected in the scary mother-in-law being referred to as the Widow of Brentwood rather than Brentford. There also an entire farcical scene around Falstaff hiding in a wheely bin that in the original play is some kind of laundry basket that I presume would have made sense to an Elizabethan audience that made no sense to me when I looked it up. Other than that, I believe they went through the text as is, and, as I said to my fellow theatre-goers in the interval, I could barely believe it had been written by Shakespeare. We talk about this guy as this eloquent, high culture wit who has shaped the entire English language, but he also wrote a play in which I just spent ten minutes watching a man in a fatsuit trying to hide under a sun lounger. It was at that point that I began to understand why the proles flocked to the Globe. These plays were never written to be studied, or read for pleasure, they are written to be performed and to entertain.

And entertained I was. There is a subplot about three men vying for the hand of one of the merry wives’ daughters while she is smitten with someone else entirely that plays out in between farcical Benny Hill scenes of people hiding in wheely bins and dressing up as tyrannical women that largely carries on undisturbed until the grand finale where suddenly everyone is running around on stage getting lost and mistaking each other in the dark, which ends happily.


The only minor criticism we had was really the RSC’s decision to give the whole thing a The Only Way is Essex vibe is that there was some elements that appeared to be mocking Essex working-class people. But this was minor, and for the most part, the characters are ridiculous and written to be so. Great show, great production.

Solid Shakespeare crew.


Related Posts:

{ 1 comment }

As a minister, I have been deeply troubled by the failure of the UK to acknowledge and mourn the losses we have experienced in the COVID-19 pandemic. Every time someone is exposed for having breached lockdown rules, there is an outpouring of pain and grief at the suffering people lived through, that is all the more remarkable for our failure to talk about it any of the rest of the time.

When I made this observation on Facebook, a number of people suggested to me that the reason for this is because people don’t want to remember. Grief does not work that way. We have an entire political and religious caste whose function is to create structured forms and formal tributes to the significant moments of life. It is our role to ensure that we do not forget.

I ended up going down a rabbit hole surveying the efforts of civic groups and individuals to create memorials to the victims of COVID-19. It seems that most of the work at the moment is being conducted by the bereaved and people involved in end of life services – the campaign to mark March 23rd as a national day of commemoration is being led by Marie Curie. There are 34 memorials built in crematoria by a private owner. The COVID-19 National Memorial Wall in Lambeth was a guerrilla collaboration between COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice and Led by Donkeys.
By a massive coincidence, the Mayor of Waltham Forest Council, where I live, planted a tree in March 2021 to mark Marie Curie’s National Day of Reflection in memory of those who lost their lives. which appears to be one of the only public memorials in London. We resolved to visit the tree – but couldn’t find it. We rang the council: the switchboard didn’t know, and had never been asked. We rang the company that provided the plaque, and they didn’t know – but told us that they had made it in memory of their colleague Geoff, who had died of COVID-19.
I eventually got the details from the local neighbourhood Facebook group and was able to visit it with friends. We had a moment of reflection and laid stones. I later received a map from the Mayor’s Office and instructions for the location, which I enclose below. They have said they will put details on the council website for others.

We have an entire political and religious caste whose function is to create structured forms and formal tributes to the significant moments of life. It’s a very human impulse to try to turn away from trauma – the role of our society to acknowledge and remember it collectively for the sake of everyone. That process can’t wait until COVID-19 is fading from the rearview mirror.



To the memory of Geoff.


Location details:

Leyton Jubilee Park: If you enter the park via Marsh Lane, go past the café and then walk left through the car park. There are steps up to a raised area of the park known as the plateau. The tree is close to the path a few yards on to the plateau (the red mark on the attached).

Related Posts:

  • No Related Posts


Shakespeare Slam: Puppet Richard II

October 6, 2019

Part of my effort to see every Shakespeare play. The guy was playing a three inch stuffed cloth tied around the wooden knob at the top of a chair with all the intensity of an RSC performance, it was riveting.” There is possibly no greater compliment I can pay a performance than to go and see […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Shakespeare Slam: Midsummer Night’s Dream

October 5, 2019

Part of my effort to see every Shakespeare play. We just can’t get this music out of our heads… 🎺Have you seen our ⭐⭐⭐⭐ #GlobeDream? Discover more 👇https://t.co/RIsObrHGl8 pic.twitter.com/551IvLDmae — Shakespeare’s Globe (@The_Globe) July 26, 2019 The main plot however, was quite overshadowed by the mayhem of the “rude mechanicals” trying to rehearse their play. As […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Shakespeare Slam: Henry IV Part 1 – Hotspur

July 21, 2019

Part of my effort to see every Shakespeare play. Henry IV Part 1, or “Hotspur” as they subtitled it, is one of the most popular plays in Shakespeare’s canon, which was good to see after one of the least popular. The story of a rebellion against King Henry IV by the tempestuous Sir Henry Percy leading […]

1 comment Read the full article →

A long-but-condensed guide to the even-longer Mueller report (April 2019)

April 22, 2019

Originally posted to Facebook on 19th April, 2019. Edited for clarity. Previous comments: Your Trump/Russia Briefing (January 2018)Trump/Russia: The Michael Cohen Update (April 2018) * Yeah, this report in absolutely no way exonerates Donald Trump. Indeed, it contains pretty clear, and substantiated, allegations of corruption, witness-tampering, obstruction, and pretty much everything that all of his […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Shakespeare Slam – King Lear

November 28, 2018

Part of my effort to see every Shakespeare play. Well, that was…intense. Ian McKellen was asked by the Chicester Festival Theatre, where he started his professional career many decades ago, if he would star in a play of his choosing, and he felt that he would like to “have a another crack at King Lear”. […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Shakespeare Slam – Troilus and Cressida

November 16, 2018

Part of my effort to see every Shakespeare play. We kick off our quest with a RSC live broadcast of Troilus and Cressida at Vue Wood Green. Troilus and Cressida is one of Shakepeare’s rarest performed plays, probably because it is rubbish. The plot is confusing, all moments of high drama are ultimately fudged, and […]

0 comments Read the full article →

Antisemitism on the Left and the Whitewashed Documentary

June 30, 2017

The Whitewashed documentary on the Chakrabarti Report and antisemitism in the Labour Party was released yesterday. It interviews various people who submitted written testimony to the Chakrabarti inquiry and feel like they were completely ignored. I did not look up the backgrounds of the people who contributed to this documentary, deliberately, because it does not […]

Read the full article →

On Croatia, Eurovision, and homophobia.

May 16, 2017

Originally published to Facebook.   I posted several times last night about Croatia’s Eurovision entry (which was ROBBED), and on each post someone different (LGBT and not) made sure to post that in 2005 Jacques Houdek gave an interview in which he made some unpleasant comments about gay people and same sex marriage and was […]

0 comments Read the full article →