Fabulously funny, feminist and feisty. The Merry Wives of Whatsapp is a screenstopping adaptation of a Shakespeare classic that resonates with not only life in lockdown, but what it means to be a woman in the digital age.
Creation Theatre Companies retelling of The Merry Wives of Windsor takes place over zoom, adding the audience into the new Merry Wives WhatsApp group where all the virtuous merry mistresses of the area band together to chat, gossip and set the world to rights. Following the basics of the traditional Shakespearean plot this adaptation, written and performed by Olivia Mace and Lizzie Hopley, follows Meg and Alice as they turn to their group chats to plan revenge after RandyKnight69 Fat Falstaff slides into their DM’s with identical love messages.
Not only is the traditional plot placed in this new setting, original elements of Shakespearean language is also seamlessly intertwined in the shows modern dialogue, reminding us of some of the most well-loved phrases from the play without being jarring or disconnecting the audience.
The plot while being 17th century in origin still resonates with life today, specifically in this re-telling the inappropriate behaviour of men towards women on social media, which is sadly all too familiar. While this is met with support, laughter and the desire for revenge by the Merry Wives, it also raises the very real problem of unwanted sexual harassment over platforms like Instagram and snapchat that women face on a day to day basis from messages like RandyKnight69’s awful love message to ‘portraits of his nether regions’.
The plot concocted by Alice and Meg to embarrass Falstaff and correct the neglect and jealous behaviour by their husbands not only creates hilarious comedy but proves that women have a right to stand up to this behaviour, demand better and publicly shame those who think it is right to treat women this way. A message, I think, is even more important in this digital age.
Directed by Natasha Rickman, the girls have an electric connection throughout the show which is recognisable in the best of girl-friends. We see our own friendships reflected in their laughter, triumphs and support for one another, making us warm even more to their cheeky jokes and feisty plots. A particular comedic highlight for me was following the girls choose the perfect outfit to seduce Falstaff in, a situation we can all relate to as we’ve spent hours with our bestie going from dress to jumpsuit to jeans and a nice top combo to create the best look.
While we watch the production for the most part the audience is placed in the role of the other wives in the Whatsapp group, meaning that at points we are asked to join in and suggest ideas or engage with the action on screen. While this is a nice idea to connect the audience to performance, personally I didn’t think it was particularly necessary and didn’t add anything extra special to the show. Saying that it didn’t take away from the piece either, so maybe I’m just a bit sensitive to being seen sat watching theatre in my slippers. However, despite one slight sound overlap the technology worked really well for this merry tale.
The Merry Wives of Whatsapp is a story of wine, wheelie bins and most of all women that places humour at its heart while showing that we all need to support each other and stand up against behaviour that makes us or our friends uncomfortable. A wonderful re-telling of a true classic for the Covid-19 age that truly does justice to the Bard while being truly merry and modern.
Merry Wives of WhatsApp is playing until 06/09/20. For more information and tickets,see the Creation Theatre website.