An Interview with Julia Nish-Lapidus & Catherine Rainville of Shakespeare BASH’d “The Merry Wives of Windsor” in the 2015 Toronto Fringe
Interview by Bailey Green
“We’ve done comedies before, but nothing like this. It’s a non-stop riot.” – Julia Nish-Lapidus, Shakespeare Bash’d.
You may not associate the words “laugh-a-minute” with Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, but Shakespeare Bash’d may change your mind—they have taken over the Victory Cafe this Fringe to bring you a comedy of epic proportions. I spoke with Julia Nish-Lapidus (playing Mistress Page) and Catherine Rainville (co-director of the production with Artistic Director James Wallis) to talk about what makes this show so “silly, fartuous, specially amazing and ridonculous.”
The show’s main plot focuses on Falstaff, Mistress Page, Mistress Ford, and their respective husbands. Falstaff decides he wants to seduce the women to gain access to their husbands’ money, but when the ladies figure it out, they decide to turn the tables on him. “They’re two smart, badass, confident, ballsy women,” says Julia.
The two women also decide to teach Mistress Ford’s jealous husband (Andrew Joseph Richardson) a lesson. Catherine and Julia praise Suzette McCanny’s work as Mistress Ford, especially with her portrayal of her sincere love for her husband and desire to help him recover from his jealousy for his own sake. Though Master Ford is described as a “rascally knave”, through cuts and interpretation, Bash’d chose to cut some of the implied violence in the text. “In 2015, we can’t have a man who beats his wife being forgiven at the end of the play. That just doesn’t sit right,” Catherine says. “And we’re not burning Falstaff with candles… We ‘turn him, turn him’ instead of ‘burn him, burn him,” Julia follows up.
And it wouldn’t be Shakespeare without a subplot – a love story between Anne Page and Fenton (played by real-life couple Jade Douris and Drew O’Hara) whose chances are jeopardized by Anne’s mother, Mistress Page, who is anxious to marry her off to the good Doctor Caius (played by Zachary Parkhurst). Jeff Dingle plays Slender, another suitor of Anne: “Slender is so loveable but just so, so wrong for Anne,” Julia says.
Sean Sullivan plays Falstaff and Lynne Griffin plays Mistress Quickly, and Catherine and Julia can’t say enough good things about them. “Sean is such a generous scene partner who is so willing to go for it,” Julia says. “They’re honestly amazing,” says Catherine, “Every day they might bring in a new prop or piece of clothing, props or set ideas.” Sean really dove in to the role of Falstaff with exuberance. Catherine expresses gratitude for Sean’s willingness to be completely open to try new direction. Catherine also says what a privilege it’s been to watch the actors go through the extensive process of creating a character from start to finish—a process she is quite familiar with, herself.
I asked Catherine and Julia about what had challenged them over the course of the show:
Julia: Giving myself permission to truly push myself. I’ve played comedic roles in our shows before, I mean last year it was basically just cleavage and squeaking. But with this show, I’m just trusting myself and the text and our amazing company, and just going for it with gusto.
Catherine: My greatest challenge has been navigating the impossible, like when the whole cast is onstage or there’s these big changes in space or location. For example, how do you make the audience see a giant tree in their mind?
Julia: Oh no… now the audience is going to be looking for the giant tree.
Catherine: There’s no tree. It’s not literal. But sometimes you get these gifts, like there’s a chimney spoken of in the text and we just magically have a fireplace in the Victory.
Julia: This time around in the Victory Cafe, I feel like we’re really embracing the bar and making it part of our story. We are the Victory Cafe players and we are here to perform our show for our audience and the queen.
“I hope we shall drink down all unkindness.” – The Merry Wives of Windsor
Join your favourite Best of Fringe winning Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare BASH’d, for the Bard’s outrageous rural comedy: The Merry Wives of Windsor. In a world of drunks and cuckolds, two witty women set out to teach a lesson of love and jealousy.
Come crush a cup at the Victory cafe with this battle of wits.
“I hope we shall drink down all unkindness.”
By: William Shakespeare
Company: Shakespeare BASH’d
Company origin: Toronto, Ontario
Director: James Wallis, Catherine Rainville
Cast: Jade Douris, Lynne Griffin, Andrew Knowlton, David Mackett, Suzette McCanny, Julia Nish-Lapidus, Drew O’Hara, Andrew Joseph Richardson, David Ross, Sean Sullivan
Connect with them:
Where: The Victory Cafe, 581 Markham Street
Show length: 90min.