Solo high-speed romp offers jolly entertainment

Performer Katie Boyle has the demanding task of performing Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor all by herself, in a single costume and without scenery.

A script pared down to not much more than an hour helps, and Boyle uses tone, facial expression and movement to distinguish characters.

It doesn't always work perfectly, but even if the speaker's identity isn't always completely obvious, it's usually easy enough for the audience to work out what's happening by listening to the words, which are clearly delivered.

Boyle's energy, commitment and innovation are high, and this is a high-speed romp making the most of the play's many bawdy bits. Especially successful, to me anyway, was the scene in which Falstaff, overflowing with breathless, ludicrous vanity and intent on easy seduction, finds himself ignominiously dumped into the Thames in a laundry hamper.

The audience is an important part of the production, and some found themselves actively participating, always in enjoyable, unthreatening ways.

One actor and not much else can't hope to approximate a full-scale production and this one lacks, inevitably, the full complexity and varied textures of the original play.

Boyle's fast-paced, cheerful performance, however, gave the small (12 or so) and appreciative audience a jolly evening's entertainment.

People who know the story well are likely to get the most out of it, but a synopsis Googled beforehand would go a long way to help the unfamiliar.

As well as acting, Boyle has designed and made her outfit, and Jenny Steffensen has contributed an antler headpiece. The production is directed by Alexander Sparrow, who is also the lighting and technical operator.

The whole thing is presented by Sparrow & Boyle Entertainment.

Tonight will be its second and final night in Dunedin.

 - Barbara Frame 
 

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