One of my first reporter work experience jobs was to interview a director who was bringing open air Shakespeare to Reading.

Then I was in the audience for first ever open air Shakespeare of Henry V in the atmospheric Abbey ruins in the years before they were declared too dangerous for performances to take place.

For one reason or another I have never managed to see another open air performance so jumped at the chance to watch Progress Theatre’s adaptation of the Bard’s Merry Wives of Windsor.

One of the trees in Caversham Court Gardens was the only backdrop for the tale of ridicule, jealously and duplicity, that ends in Windsor Great Park.

In a get rich quick scheme Sir John Flastaff attempts to woo Margaret Page (Heidi Ashton) and Alice Ford (Bruna Box) in a bid to get his hands on their husband’s copious amounts of money. However, the women faithful to their husbands lead the plump merchant on a merry dance in a bid to teach him a lesson so that there was no need of a divorce solicitor like the productions’s sponsor Tony Roe. The farce was further enhance by the triad of suitors for Page’s daughter Anne.

The comings and goings, brought forward to the 18th century by Progress was fast paced, slapstick and chaotic as a farce should be.

The always trying Falstaff, played by Jeremy Radburn, was the perfect plump fool who raised a smile every time he thought he was about to get caught by Page’s husband played by Mikhail Franklin who is the only remaining cast member of the 1995 Henry V.

All the characters were brought together by the fantastic bumbling Mistress Quickly (Linda Bostock) who would do anything for a quick shilling.

The two ladies were wonderfully theatrical in a bid to entrap Falstaff.

But the star of the show was the host of the Garter Inn, Anthony Allgood, who helped to fast forward the plot, add some highly comical interludes and actually started the evening by introducing theVerona play of two lovers thwarted by their family feud.

His hilarious ad-libbing and introducing text speak into Shakespeare had the audience in stitches adding to the farcical feel to the play.

Under the stars in the amazing outdoor venue of Caversham Court Garden, that changed the atmosphere of the play as darkness descended, including the addition of a bat fluttering around, also gives the audience a taste of what contemporary Tudor audiences would have experienced.