BEATEN, bashed and bruised - but Falstaff (Andrew Hodges) kept coming back for more. His punishment for general roguishness was dished out by the Merry Wives of Windsor and their unforgiving husbands.
Rain or Shine's open-air production of Shakespeare's high comedy of infidelity and female revenge was fast, funny and highly entertaining. It presents the bard's farce in traditional dress and style.
Josie Lamb as Mistress Quickly is worth the ticket price alone and her turn as Parson Evans was a lesson in comic character acting. James Reynard as Master Page and Jayne Lloyd as Mistress Ford were good value, David Middleton has a fine Shakespearean face, and Kate Izon's diction and movement as Mistress Page kept the audience awake - wrapped as they were for a frosty night in blankets and coats.
Kim Baker and Alistair Cope were versatile and compelling, while Hodges as Falstaff may not have had the voice or the bulk, but certainly had it in the testosterone department: come hither wench and kiss me quickly.
Harry Mottram - Western Daily Press
RAIN or Shine Theatre Company - winners of the Buxton Festival Fringe Best Drama Award and renowned for their exquisite outdoor renditions of classical comedy from Shakespeare to Sheridan - is on tour with Merry Wives of Windsor. The eight-strong Gloucester-based company includes local actress Kate Izon in the role of Mistress Page. Kate - who has been acting for only a year - gives a plucky, confident performance as the mischievous wife. Most of the cast take two or three parts, and the juggling of costumes/accents/wigs and sexes makes for an entertainment in itself. Andrew Hodges is a very fine Falstaff, who carries the weight (both padded and verbal) with expertise. Alistair Cope engineers the changes between his foppish Slender, French doctor and poor suitor with skill. Credit must also go to Kim Baker, who appears in four guises. All in, it's a nicely paced farce that makes for a perfect evening's outdoor entertainment. Julie Harries – Hereford Times
Merry and classy - LOVERS of outdoor theatre could not ask for anything more than this exemplary performance by Rain or Shine of Shakespeare's unashamedly comic romp "The Merry Wives of Windsor", The leafy amphitheatre at Lytham's King Edward and Queen Mary School provided an atmospheric setting on mid summer’s day and a pleasantly mixed audience was treated to an interpretation by director James Reynard which was an ideal introduction to Shakespeare.
The Versatile cast of 8 playing some 20 roles achieved an admirable balance between setting out the twists of the plot, expounding the sometimes-complex language and entertaining hugely by means of pacey and physical fooling, Lytham born Alistair Cope excelled with a tour de force as the fiery Fenchman Dr Caius whilst the experienced Jayne Lloyd as Mistress Ford, had notable stage presence. David Middleton as Master Ford displayed perfect timing in his dialogues of misunderstanding with the gullible Sir John Falstaff.
Andrew Hodges, in his first season with Rain or Shine, reveled in his corpulence as Falstaff, playing the role with just a touch of Frankie Howard as he ooh’d and aah'd with the audience.
The effortless audibility of a very strong ensemble contributed much to a midsummer evening of rich entertainment for the audience. Their enthusiastic response also enhanced a first class example of how to play Shakespeare outdoors.
Julian Wilde - Blackpool Gazette
The admirable Rain or Shine Theatre Company became the first professional set of actors to visit Purley on Thames when they performed Shakespeare's "The Merry Wives of Windsor" in the Barn. And what a marvellous show they put on! The bawdy knockabout comedy, apparently written by the Bard in just fourteen days and at the express request of Queen Elizabeth I, is full of comic repartee, but the diction, timing and movement of the eight-strong cast was so precise and expressive that the sell-out audience was able to enjoy every laugh from start to finish. Even the occasional soliloquies employed to hurry along the narrative kept everyone entertained. The action centres on the amorous intentions of Sir John Falstaff, a roguish knight "of good substance," played with incredible energy by Andrew Hodges. The scene in when he receives a realistic thrashing from the cuckolded Master Ford (played by David Middleton, a Rain or Shine veteran) was pure knockabout farce, verging on the pantomime, which had the audience in hoots of laughter. But a real scene-stealer, especially in the first half of the play, was the fiery Doctor Caius (Alistair Cope), who entertained everyone with an outrageous mock French accent and exaggerated facial expressions. The Old Barn is not the easiest of venues for theatre. It has a high vaulted ceiling and limited stage area, but the Rain or Shine Company's skill lies in not just establishing an immediate rapport with the audience, but sustaining a fast pace till the end. All of the tight-knit group of actors did superbly well, but look out for Kate Izon, not yet out of drama school, who played Mistress Page with delectable humour. The cast fully deserved the lengthy applause they received at the curtain, and have promised to return with their next production. - David Downs