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Review: Falstaff at The Lowry is a ‘masterpiece of laughter and enchantment’

Henry Waddington's sidesplitting portrayal of Sir John promises an evening of laughter and charm in Opera North's Falstaff.

Under the rainbow-striped butcher’s curtain, Opera North’s Falstaff unfolds.

Henry Waddington, portraying the blustering Sir John, navigates the shambles of his misadventures with impeccable humour and charm, under the directorial brilliance of Olivia Fuchs in the inaugural show of the company’s eco-conscious “Green Season.”

I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much in The Lowry.

Henry Waddington’s timing, facial expression and mannerisms were without doubt sidesplitting from the get-go.

Nostalgia and Novelty: 1980s Windsor Unveiled

Windsor of the 1980s emerges as a dynamic backdrop, transforming Shakespearean farce into a soap opera tinged with humour.

As the production unfolds, Leslie Travers’s ingenious set designs seamlessly transport audiences to the upwardly mobile Windsor of the 1980s.

Falstaff’s caravan, a symbol of his misfortune, sets the stage for a farcical journey into Shakespearean comedy.

Travers’s masterstrokes, including an oak tree assembled from real antlers discarded by the deer of Harewood House, infuse magic into the production and hallmark a truly impressive piece of stage design.

The transposition to the suburban settings of the 1980s adds a contemporary flair to the comic intrigues, while maintaining the farcical essence of Shakespeare’s beloved rogue.

Alice Ford’s cunning conspiracies unfold against the backdrop of a tennis club, and Nannetta’s love for Fenton takes a nearly contemporary turn with a Joy Division T-shirt.

Waddington’s Falstaff: A Lyrical Marvel

Henry Waddington breathes life into Falstaff, embracing the character’s virtue with a twinkle in his eye and an unfailing sense of humour.

Kate Royal’s portrayal of Alice Ford as Falstaff’s comic match adds zest, while Richard Burkhard, Isabelle Peters, and Egor Zhuravskii deliver standout performances in their roles.

The ensemble cast, under the impeccable direction of Olivia Fuchs, delivers a stellar performance marked by dead-on comic timing.

Louise Winter’s warm and wise portrayal of Mistress Quickly and Paul Nilon’s incisive tone as the hypocritical Dr. Caius are particularly memorable.

Colin Judson as Bardolph and Dean Robinson as Pistol contribute to the lively atmosphere, making Falstaff’s world a tapestry of humor and intrigue.

The Eclectic Symphony: Verdi’s Burst of Energy

Verdi’s score, conducted by Garry Walker, bursts forth with energy and wicked humour, promising a riotous spectacle.

The famous fugue finale becomes a crescendo of unexpected twists, perfectly complementing the production’s irreverent comedy and adding a layer of depth to Falstaff’s comedic escapades.

Gabrielle Dalton’s costume designs elevate the visual spectacle, capturing the essence of the 1980s with a modern twist.

In the final scene some of the outfits: the fairy godmother, Falstaff as the Stag amongst a great selection of others are a joy to behold.

From Santa Claus-inspired Falstaff to the tennis club conspirators, each character’s costume is a delightful reflection of their personality.

Paule Constable and Ben Pickersgill’s lighting design complements the visual feast, creating a nuanced atmosphere that enhances the comedic and dramatic moments.

A Green Season Extravaganza

Falstaff heralds the beginning of Opera North’s “Green Season,” promising a trio of  brilliance.

Leslie Travers’s revisit to previous works, repurposing elements for Falstaff, Masque of Might, and La Rondine to modern audiences have been nothing but a joy to be part of.

Falstaff’s Everlasting Charm

Opera North’s Falstaff, with its sustainably staged brilliance, proves to be a riotous feast for opera enthusiasts and comedy lovers alike. Henry Waddington’s Falstaff, surrounded by a stellar cast and supported by the creative prowess of Travers, Dalton, Constable, and Pickersgill, ensures an unforgettable evening of laughter and enchantment.

As the “Green Season” unfolds, promising more ecological extravaganzas, Opera North invites audiences to revel in the timeless charm of Shakespearean comedy and Verdi’s musical genius.

Falstaff’s resounding encore sets the stage for an extraordinary season of operatic delight.

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