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LOL comedy with Merry Wives of WhatsApp

Creation lead the way with Zoom performances

Trish Lee

Trish Lee

trish.lee@newburynews.co.uk

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01635 886663

creation theatre

Creation Theatre: The Merry Wives of WhatsApp,
in living rooms everywhere, from Friday, September 4 to Sunday, September 6

Review by JON LEWIS

NEW DATES: OCTOBER 3 at 7pm and October 4 at 6.30pm and 8.30pm
Performed live online over Zoom.

WHILE live theatre is cautiously awakening in the UK with social distancing and reduced attendances, Oxford’s innovative Creation Theatre Company is further developing the technologies of Zoom and social media to bring to audiences safe, exciting, interactive performances that can be accessed from the comfort of our own homes.

Olivia Mace, who adapted Dickens’ Bleak House for Creation back in February, has dissected Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, becoming the wittily-titled Merry Wives of WhatsApp. Fluently directed by Natasha Rickman, Mace rewrites the drama to be told from the point of view of the wives Falstaff is targeting over the internet for amorous adventures. As Tim Crouch does with plays like I, Malvolio, the focus on Meg (Lizzie Hopley, returning to Creation after nearly a decade) and Alice (Mace, herself), a tricksy, life-affirming duo who spend every morning learning the Latin present tense for to love with an online Joe Wicks.

The involvement of Mace, Hopley and Rickman, actresses with experience of writing and directing, gives this performance a feel of the BBC’s Staged, Michael Sheen and David Tennant thespian lockdown comedy. The script is full of hilarious one-liners, delicious meta-theatre jokes, and probably the world’s first meta-Zoom performance joke about Zoom actors’ malfunctions over the mute/unmute button.

Meg and Alice develop their revenge plots against Sir John Falstaff (mocked as Fatstaff) who goes by the twitter handle RandyKnight69. Cleverly, Rickman enables close-ups of the characters’ phone messages in a remarkable ramp-up of Zoom’s online editing processes. The splicing of pre-recorded scenes outside, such as in Windsor Great Park, with scenes recorded live in the homes of the actors is so successful you don’t see the joins, as in some previous Zoom shows.

The jokes come so thick and fast that really this play needs to be seen twice to catch them all. It’s a LOL comedy that is authentic and true to the spirit of the Shakespeare, but also bitingly relevant to this year’s lockdown experiences. An NHS rainbow picture subtly hangs on one wall, an attention to detail Creation excels in. We see how families’ individuated leisure time is spent with everyone on their own device. As Meg plots on WhatsApp downstairs, her daughter is glued to the American horror of suburban massacres, The Purge, upstairs, while Meg has blocked her daughter’s phone so she cannot FaceTime with her beau Fenton.

Audience members are roped in as gossipy messengers enabling Creation’s now trademark audience involvement to enlarge the range of characters in the play. They read lines sent out in pop-up boxes that we all can see. The suburban lifestyles of the wives – home facials, cocktails on the couch, social media fixations in the absence of their jealous husbands – are delightfully realised.

I loved every moment. Immaculately performed, Creation has a hit on its hands with these hilarious merry wives.

NEW DATES: OCTOBER 3 at 7pm and October 4 at 6.30pm and 8.30pm
Performed live online over Zoom.
When greasy knight John Falstaff slides into their DMs with identical love messages, Meg and Alice turn to their local WhatsApp group to plan vengeance on him and their useless husbands. How like you these Merry Wives?
Written and adapted by Olivia Mace (the mastermind behind Bleak House) and Lizzie Hopley (returning after 9 years following stints as a Roaring Girl with the RSC and writer of Big Finish’s Doctor Who audio plays), these two Zoom novices will have you in hysterics.
A modern re-imagining of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor directed by Natasha Rickman (The Time Machine 2020), The Merry Wives of WhatsApp is a play of women, wine and wheelie bins.
Back by popular demand!
“The jokes come so thick and fast that really this play needs to be seen twice to catch them all. It’s a LOL comedy that is authentic and true to the spirit of the Shakespeare, but also bitingly relevant to this year’s lockdown experiences.” Jon Lewis @NewburyToday
www.creationtheatre.co.uk

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