Edinburgh Fringe 2018
Satire, comedy and a good dollop of farce in this enchanting adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor with a distinct Korean flavour.
EDP is the English drama club at the Soon Chun Hyang University in South Korea and they’ve brought this inventive version of Shakespeare’s bawdy farce for its first airing at the Edinburgh Fringe down at C South in Lutton Place, home to the elegant St Peter’s Church and its idyllic gardens.
This stripped down production makes inventive use of dance, physical theatre, mime and slapstick. And there’s a rich variety of music from traditional Korean from jazz, rhythm and blues, hip hop, rock and even a bit of beat box. Words? Who needs those? They play a part in the show but, frankly, this version would have worked without dialogue, so good were the non-word elements.
With Falstaff portrayed as a certain US political figure, the women in the play have the ideal figure against whom they can show their independence and whom they can ultimately humiliate – not once, but twice. There was a nice take on the “Falstaff in the basket” scene and a neatly executed Benny Hill style chase when he subsequently appears disguised as a washerwoman. Anne Page looked suitably bewildered at the array of suitors paraded before her and the cuckolded husbands, Ford and Page, sounded suitably miffed.
Leading everyone on this merry dance as Mistresses Ford and Page were the consummate Yee-eun Lee and Ye-ju Woo respectively and there was some excellent clowning and mime from Sang-gil Han and Seung-yong Kang as Pistol and Nym. But it was Master Fenton, played by the supremely athletic Ung-hwan Ha who stole the show. Movement and acrobatics were exceptional, given the confined space available to him and his character came over as the young, earnest romantic that a production like this needs to keep the whole thing credible.
Costumes were many, colourful and exotic, props simple and set non-existent, but who needs one in a Shakespeare play anyway. And this vibrant, innovative and very fresh production comes to a whirlwind of a conclusion as Falstaff is outfoxed, the Fords and Pages reconciled and Mistress Anne gets to marry the true love of her life, Fenton, rather than the rival suitors her squabbling parents had chosen and all depart to live happily ever after.
The language of Shakespeare transcends all cultures, inviting almost any interpretation. This one is a sure fire winner and is a genuinely fresh take on one of the Bard’s best farces.