All’s Well that Ends Well “is a strange play, and a frequently unloved one”, begins the programme note; bit of a surprise, this. In many ways, it is true, even if a bit tough. This production, skillfully directed by Blanche McIntyre, breathes life into the plot, but it still creaks. So, All’s Well is not the magnificent banquet of, say, Lear, Hamlet, or As You Like It. It is more like tea and a plate of tasty cakes.
This tale of girl loves boy; boy does not love girl; boy goes off with his mates to war; girl does not give up and tricks boy into getting her pregnant; all ends happily; is given a rich and entertaining modern-day presentation by McIntyre. The play is crammed with mobile phones, projections, computer games, modern warfare, drones; joyful gimmickry no doubt, but importantly melded into a satisfying whole. Though I must say, the Drum, D.R.U.M – D-Rum – Drone running joke completely eluded me.
Rosie Sheehy brings Helena, the love-struck protagonist successfully to three-dimensional life; we truly care about her. Nothing could make this clearer than when she finally ‘wins’ the idiot Bertram’s affections at the play’s conclusion. I was all for leaping into her world and convincing her there are much better fish in the sea.
Claire Benedict’s Countess is superb; she carries her stature with great ease, her performance of the text is perfection.
Benjamin Westerby is a suitably swaggering and self-obsessed Bertram. Physically he is strong, but when he is angry, he resorts to shouting; when are so many young actors going to take voice production seriously?
Parolles is one of those tricky Shakespeare roles – it teeters between comedic and tedious. Jamie Wilkes carries it well, however, and when the plot brings him to his come-uppance, Wilkes creates a terrific moment of self-awareness and growth leaving us torn between enjoying his ridicule or empathising with his pain.
Julia Grundy speaks the Audio Description; so subtly she shifts emotions, and her interventions never interrupt the production’s flow.
The Countess – Claire Benedict
Bertram – Benjamin Westerby
Helena – Rosie Sheehy
Parolles – Jamie Wilkes
Lavache – Will Edgerton
Rinaldo – Sophia Cartman
Page – Joeravar Sangha
Messenger – Ewan Orton
King of France – Bruce Alexander
Lafew – Simon Coates
Older Dumain – Micah Balfour
Younger Dumain – Eloise Secker
Gentleman – Thom Petty
Lord – Oscar Batterham
Gentleman Austringer – Callum Coates
A Widow – Funola Olufunwa
Diana – Olivia Onyehara
Marina – Jessica Layde
Soldier – Laila Alj
Director – Blanch McIntyre
Designer – Robert Innes Hopkins
Lighting Designer – Richard Howell
Composer – D J Walde
Sound Designer – Gregory Clarke
Video Designer – Douglas O’Connell