Brace yourself for generous helpings of wit, farce, trickery and true love, as a glorious production of The Merry Wives of Windsor presented by Creative Cow Theatre Group comes to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Guildford this October.
As the production draws near, the Yvonne Arnaud ask founder member of Creative Cow, Katherine Senior, who will also be playing Mistress Page, a few questions about the play and company.
Q. For those who don’t know the play, tell us briefly what The Merry Wives of Windsor is about. Also, why Shakespeare wrote it?
A. It is said that Shakespeare wrote this play at the request of Queen Elizabeth I. Because she loved the character of Sir John Falstaff (from Henry IV Parts 1 & 2 and Henry V), she asked Shakespeare to write a new play specifically for the puffed up and degenerate knight. It is a rollicking tale of marriage, fidelity, trickery and love. Falstaff is seized with the outrageous idea that to seduce two of Windsor’s wealthy merry wives will prove his virility and give him access to their money. However, with female cunning and a devilish plot involving their husbands, the women repeatedly trick him.
Q. This is one of Shakespeare’s less know comedies. So why did you choose it above, say, Midsummer Night’s Dream, or The Tempest?
A. That is one of the reasons why we chose it, because these other titles are done so often. That’s not to say it’s not well known but it is not very frequently toured on the scale we are touring it. Above all, though, we currently have the company to do it. It’s a play we’ve always wanted to do, as we believe one of the core members of the company is made for Falstaff…it was either this or King Lear. We opted for the comedy!
Q. I believe you’re hoping schools will come to see the production? What do you think pupils will potentially get out of it?
A. We hope that students will see how Shakespeare is relevant to today and very, very funny. It is not on the study list but it is very easy to access. It would be interesting from a study point of view to compare the story to his other plays and see the parallels. It is his only play of contemporary manners, a sketch of middle class English Life.
Q. And how about adults?
A. It follows the usual plots, cross dressing, pretending to be someone else, trickery, love, suspicion - it’s a great tale for the modern audience told in beautiful and understandable language. I believe it is one of his plays that contains the most prose. Only a few characters speak verse at the very end making it somewhat more naturalistic in its phrasing. People should watch it because it was written by Royal demand!
Q. Tell us about the company and your philosophy. What is it that drives the company’s creativity?
A. The core company is very small, just three creatives- two actors and an artistic director. It means the artistic drive and philosophy is crystal clear- to create honest, entertaining and powerful pieces of theatre. There has never been a need to sit down and discuss an aim or mission statement as we came together simply because we wanted to produce quality productions and the ‘style’ was born out of an utterly organic process. There is no money behind the company which means although we really have to juggle the finances, we never have anything to lose, which gives us a certain amount of freedom to do what we want! The core company has bucket loads of tenacity, passion and creativity to always deliver top notch versions of classic plays on a shoestring.
Q. So why ‘Creative Cow’?
A. The name Creative Cow came about because our director, Amanda, lives on a farm in the valleys of Devon and her husband is a rare breed cattle farmer. We rehearse on the farm, literally. The cows are back out in the fields, which means we can squat in their winter abode, which is a very, very large cow shed and yes, it’s outdoors! When the sun is shining and it’s warm, you feel very lucky rehearsing in such beautiful surroundings. When it’s torrential rain, however, you have to wear an additional layer of clothes, work harder and shout louder!!...or give up and…seek shelter inside…
The Merry Wives of Windsor is on at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, 17-19 October. Visit yvonne-arnaud.co.uk to book tickets or call the Box Office on 01483 44 00 00