Roman setting for Elizabethan drama.
There may be a couple of millennia between the builder of the stage and the writer of the play, but both were the preeminent architects of their day. Anyone who's ever visited ancient Curium, built in the second century BC, cannot fail to have been moved by the stunning amphitheatre, a perfect example of theatrical construction. And the Bard himself is no minor player either -- his handiwork still as relevant today as ever. So the annual, late-June pairing of Roman setting and Elizabethan drama is, without a doubt, one of the highlights of our cultural calendar.
Taking place on June 26, 27 and 28, this year's Shakespeare at Curium is the magical TheMerry Wives of Windsor. Performed by a cast of local amateur (and occasionally ex-professional) actors, this rarely-presented comedy is thought to have been commissioned personally by Queen Elizabeth I who wanted, apparently, to see more of one of her favourite characters: Sir John Falstaff. Purportedly, Shakespeare resurrected Falstaff (his future at the end of Henry IV, Part II had rather been left hanging in the balance before the royal decree) and immediately wrote Merry Wives -- in a mere 14 days.
There's no denying royalty and Nicholas Rowe, in his Life of Shakespeare (1709), reports that the Queen "was so well pleased with that admirable character of Falstaff in the two parts of Henry IV that she commanded him to continue it for one play more, and to show him in love". Which is just what happens to our amiable and errant protagonist in Merry Wives, as he bumbles through English society, wooing and wining in equal measure…
The play begins with our ageing knight rather down on his luck, suffering from a distinct lack of funds after his recent campaigns. But in typically irrepressible fashion, he quickly decides the answer to all his troubles lies in seducing the wives of two wealthy citizens who hail, of course, from Windsor. Sending the two women identical love letters may seem like a good way for Falstaff to hedge his bets and restore his fortunes, but matters -- as so often is the case in Shakespeare's comedies -- quickly go awry.
The two wives almost immediately compare the details of their respective missives, and discover them to be almost indistinguishable. And while neither spouse is particularly interested in the advances of such an overweight, ageing suitor, for the sake of their own amusement -- and in retribution for his indecent assumptions -- they pretend to respond. All of which results, alas, in an excess of embarrassments for our protagonist.
Plagued by high jinks and humbling jokes -- stuffed into a laundry basket, disguised as 'the fat woman of Brentford', and attacked by local children -- in his quest to woo the wives, Falstaff nevertheless takes it all in good spirit. His pride may be taking a bit of a battering, but his pursuit remains resolute as he hypothesises that his would-be paramours are merely playing hard to get. And thus the chase continues, with much attendant humiliation, hiccups and hilarity.
This being Shakespeare, there's a jolly brace of sub-plots thrown in for good measure: the star-crossed fortunes of Mistress Anne Page and the wily deceptions employed by one of the Windsor husbands adding greatly to the general confusion of the evening. Dramatically speaking that is. Because the actual event promises to be enlightening, enjoyable and entertaining; everything from the superb acting to the divine setting colluding to produce a memorable occasion for all.
And, in the words of Falstaff himself "as good luck would have it" there's still time to book your tickets for this wonderful event. Surely there's no jollier way to give back than seeing the best of the Bard in a glorious, ancient amphitheatre? It's definitely going to be a very merry evening all round!
Shakespeare at Curium
The Merry Wives of Windsor, directed by St John Coombes, on June 26, 27 and 28 at the Ancient Curium Amphitheatre. Curtain Up at 8pm. For reservations, call the Box Office on 99-990535 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets cost e1/45 for children and e1/415 for adults, and are available from the Akrotiri & Episkopi SBA Hives, Kyriakou Bookshops in Limassol and Paphos, the Friends' Hospice Shops in Paphos and Pissouri, and at the door on the night. Although only water is allowed in the theatre, the audience are encouraged to bring a picnic to enjoy in the nearby areas
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