This isn’t a sponsored post.
BrumHour was invited to see All’s Well That Ends Well by The RSC.
By David Fox twitter.com/DavidFoxTheatre
Review: All’s Well That Ends Well at The RSC
“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none”William Shakespeare
Directed by Blanche McIntyre
All’s Well That Ends Well is the latest production to hit the stage at The RSC’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. A Shakespearean comedy given a modern twist – and a play that I am less familiar with, so was very interested to see.
Helena, orphaned daughter of a poor physician is adopted by the Countess of Rossilion. She sets her sights on marrying the countess’s son, Bertram. However, he does not want to marry her – so flees, joins the army, and goes off to fight the wars in Italy. Desperate, Helena disguises herself and follows him.
All’s Well… is known as one of Shakespeare’s ‘problem plays’. The ‘problem’ being that it does not conform to the traditional ideal of a romantic love story, features characters that can sometimes feel unsympathetic or even dislikeable and have morals that we may question. Billed as an ‘anti-rom-com’ at times has a dark undertone which I think is what makes the play so interesting – as an audience, we question our own feelings toward the situations and characters. Is Bertram right to reject Helena? Is Helena right to follow him? Would we see her as an obsessive stalker? Returning to the ‘problem’ of the play we ask ourselves if the ending is a happy one? Well… that is up to you to decide!
This production brings that action of Shakespeare right up to date, effectively using the backdrop to project social media profiles, YouTube footage, and Instagram bios to highlight characteristics, plot points, or story background. While the production was simplistic in its costume and set design – modern dress and a dome and curtain, with furniture to denote location – I was really impressed with the use of dramatic lighting, sound effects (which were incredibly loud!) and projection of ‘drone footage’ made for an effective end of act one battle scene!
As usual (and expected from the RSC) there were some fantastic performances. I really enjoyed the central performance of Helena and Bertram, played by Rosie Sheehy and Benjamin Westerby, with Sheehy particularly good at portraying Helena’s despair. Gravitas was brought to the play by excellent performances from Claire Benedict as The Countess, and Simon Coates as Lafew. The standout performance for me was Jamie Wilkes as Parolles – the loud-mouthed, dirty-minded braggart of a soldier (and Betram’s friend and companion). A kind of Bear Grills wannabe, convincing the world he is brave, but a coward underneath. His interaction with Lafew was particularly funny, and there were many laughs at his expense!
The RSC’s ‘All’s Well That Ends Well is a great production, timely in its subject matter, and thought-provoking in its presentation. Most importantly it was also very funny! A great night out at the theatre.
All’s Well That Ends Well is at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, for a limited run until 8th October 2022 – book now via rsc.org.uk/alls-well-that-ends-well