All’s Well that Ends Well: William Shakespeare, RSC AT RST Stratford upon Avon, 01/10/22, Audio Described Performance, Rod Dungate & David Gray 4****

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

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