Theatre Review: All’s Well that Ends Well

19 May


Plot: The feisty but lowly Helena falls in love with Bertram, a haughty count. To gain his hand she is set a string of impossible tasks. Even if accomplished, they can hardly guarantee his love. He refuses to bed her and yet says he’ll only be hers if she bears his child; and he lusts after another. Nevertheless, our heroine, whether wisely or no, refuses to give him up.

This is a beautiful production helmed by the very effective and highly imaginative Marianne Elliot whose talent as a director I have come to admire after having seen her excellent revival of Ibsen’s Pillars of the Community at the National in 2006. Still not a habitue of the theatre on those days I am kicking myself for having missed her version of the RSC’s Much Ado About Nothing, and the National Theatre’s Saint Joan and Therese Raquin, not to mention that I still havent seen War Horse either! Like Ms. Elliott, I have not seen any production of AWTEW and have decided to skip reading the play text and just relied on my Shakespeare’s companion book. The plot of the woman scorned appealed to me for like Helena, I have experienced rejection quite a few times but my resilience to see it through regardless of the result was a good learning experience (if I ever learned!) and I would like to see how this translates to the stage.

I thought that the performance of Michelle Terry as Helena whom I also saw previously in the raucous yet a lot of fun England People Very Nice was exceptional, you really felt for her when Bertram refused her pointblank, he’s a snob and an idiot, and men of that same sort are sadly still about, and worse! I mean how dare he?! Claire Higgins as the Countess of Rossillion was authoritative yet affectionate, and so was Oliver Ford Davies as the King of France. And I very rarely give credit to the more technical side of the production but kudos to Rae Smith, Gemma Carrington and Jon Driscoll for a superb background of what seems llke a lost fairy land, complete with gothic towers and visual effects of crows and owls.

All’s Well that Ends Well: 4/5
Playing at the Olivier, National Theatre until 30 September

Marianne Elliott article on The Times

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