We had seats in the third row, and the view and the hearing were much better than with the earlier Cymbeline. This is a magical production, even though the Falstaff, Leslie Phillips, was only very competent and not brilliant. John Kane was truly wonderful as Sir Hugh Evans, the Welsh parson, and so was Edward Petherbridge as Ford and his alter ego, Mr Brook. But the entire ensemble played together beautifully. Two other standouts were Guy Henry as the French doctor Dr Caius (with a bogus French accent reminiscent of Inspector Clouseau) and a laughably effeminate Slender, played by Christopher Luscombe.
The play is beautifully constructed by a very sure hand. Falstaff is set up for a fall, and falls, only to be set up for another — and another. The laundry basket scene was extremely well done. Mr. Brook’s disguise, glasses and a small mustache, where effective, and the mustache especially, when the actor pulls it off and feels great pain — twice — delightfully ludicrous. The final scene, a revisiting of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a delightful comic vision, serves to transform comedy into something even more wonderful. We thought the RSC redeemed itself in this production after such a lackluster Cymbeline and a muddled Mysteries.