Terry Hands made his Stratford directorial debut with this boisterously funny production featuring Brewster Mason as Sir John Falstaff and Ian Richardson as Frank Ford.

Large bearded elderly man dressed in Elizabethan costume rests one arm on the back of a settle and stares proudly to one side
Brewster Mason as Falstaff, 1968, Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Photo by Tom Holte Photographic Collection © Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Browse and license our images


In 1968 Terry Hands made an impressive Stratford debut directing the first production of The Merry Wives of Windsor to open at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. The show was popular with critics and audiences alike, transferring to London and touring to Japan, as well being revived frequently.

The 1975 revival was part of Hands’ Falstaffian cycle of plays, which also included Henry IV Part 1 and Henry IV Part 2. Amazingly, Brewster Mason played the Fat Knight in all these productions.


A major reason for the production's success was its well-observed social context, in which the emerging Elizabethan middle class of provincial Windsor contrasted with the courtly dress, manner and speech of the urbane Sir John Falstaff. In this world, it was money rather than sex that propelled the plot but as the comedy accelerated, it never lost touch with its civic society.


Another feature of the production was Terry Hands’ creation of an effective composite script based on the 'bad’ Quarto and Folio versions of the play's text. His script was so successful, it was used in many subsequent productions.


Designer Timothy O’Brien joined the company in 1966, where he collaborated successfully with directors Peter Hall and Terry Hands. He was an early pioneer of television design before transferring his skills to the theatre and later films. In 1978, together with Tazeena Firth, he created the designs for Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s musical Evita.


For Terry Hands’ production of The Merry Wives of Windsor, O’Brien created a stylized timber set with patchwork carpet squares and tapestry-like designs. Both the set and the traditional costumes featured a colour palette of autumnal orange, green and brown.

Illuminated theatrical set in autumnal colours showing patchwork floor and wooden door with roof shape abovePhoto by Tom Holte Theatre Photographic Collection (c) Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Timothy O'Brien's set for The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1968, Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Photo by Tom Holte Theatre Photographic Collection © Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Browse and license our images
Programme cover for The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1968, featuring a naive woodcut with a castle, Elizabethan houses and townsfolk



Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Frederick Bennett - Townsperson

Martin Black - Child

Sydney Bromley – Justice Shallow

Brenda Bruce –Margaret Page

Stephan Chase - John

Peter Clay – Townsperson

Ron Daniels - Townsperson

Jeffrey Dench – George Page

Peter Geddis – Abraham Slender

Felicity Gordon – Townsperson

Christina Greatrex – Townsperson

Carson Green - Child

Ruby Head - Townsperson

David Healy – Host of the Garter

Don Henderson – Bardolph

Geoffrey Hutchings – Peter Simple

Emrys James – Sir Hugh Evans

Lila Kaye – Mistress Quickly

David Ludlow – William Page

Boyd Mackenzie - Townsperson

Brewster Mason – Sir John Falstaff

Richard Mayes - Townsperson

Tony McEwan - Townsperson

William McGuirk – John Rugby

Vanessa Miles - Anne Page

John Nolan – Townsperson

Gregg Palmer - Robert

Stephen Papworth - Child

Roger Rees - Fenton

Ian Richardson – Frank Ford

Susan Sheers - Townsperson

Morgan Sheppard – Pistol

Derek Smith – Doctor Caius

Walter Sparrow - Nym

Elizabeth Spriggs – Alice Ford

Paul Swift - Child

Philip Taylor - Townsperson

Philip Terry - Child

Paul Turnell - Child

John Vaughan - Robin

Keith Washington - Townsperson




Director – Terry Hands

Designer – Timothy O’Brien

Lighting Designer – David Read

Choreographer – Christie Dickason

Music – Guy Woolfenden


The RSC's archive is held at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. You can visit the Library and Archives there to look at production related information, including photos, videos of shows and stage management documents:

Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive homepage

You can search the RSC catalogue here: 

RSC performance database

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