All's Well That Ends Well at Royal Shakespeare Theatre Review

All's Well That Ends Well at Royal Shakespeare Theatre Review


Posted 2022-08-25 by Alison in Birmingham follow

Tue 23 Aug 2022

Not all Shakespeare's love stories are star-crossed lovers or passionate duelling minds. Some, like All's Well That Ends Well, verge on morally questionable characters and aren't romantic at all.

Despite this difficult, complex 'love story', director Blanche McIntyre has put some thought into transforming the play into something relevant for today's audiences at the Royal Shakespeare Company(RSC).

What she's come up with is a piece that puts the Instagram generation at the centre of the action. Young people obsessed with image and beaming their lives however fake over social media, which works well for some parts of the storyline.

This new All's Well That Ends Well is on at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. You can catch it there until October 8.

McIntyre returns to the RSC after her triumphant adaptation of gruesome Titus Andronicus in 2017. That was modernised too with a Tarantino feel to it. This time, she is using the latest stage technology to show social media posts and videos that weave into this uncomfortable story.

It follows orphan Helena as she manages to trap the man she's obsessed with into marriage several times. You'd feel sorry for her prey, Bertram, if he wasn't such a brat. Benjamin Westerby plays him with just enough arrogance to be annoying.

This spins the idea of forced marriage around from the norm with a man the victim, who would rather flee to fight in a war than submit to the marriage bed.

Helena's misguided actions could be down to her youth and it's interesting that she's introduced in school uniform. Talented Rosie Sheehy, who played the RSC's memorable King John, gives Helena a feel of desparation.

There's an obsessiveness about her securing her 'catch' and I couldn't help but think the set design looked like a hanging trap.

It's very relevant to current times with even Bridgerton, Netflix and Bear Grylls getting a nod. A rave scene with wigs and dark lighting even makes Helena's identity-swap plan of fooling Bertram into reconciling with her believable.

But the real star of the show that lifts this production is the comic sideline of Bertram's friend, Parolles. This is where the social media element really works showing someone living out a lie and double persona.

Online he's a gung-ho Rambo-like warrior wearing combat trousers and sweatbands but in real life he's a coward, also eventually caught in a trap by his army colleagues. Perfectly cast Jamie Wilkes is hilarious in the role and a breath of fresh air every time he's on stage.

For all his faults, he's probably the most likeable character. One of the main issues is that no one is particularly likeable and they all seem to be manipulating someone else.

That said, McIntyre has been thoughtful with what she's got. She doesn't try and turn it into a romantic piece but leaves it open-ended as to where our main players will go.

Worth a mention are some of the mature members of the cast, like Simon Coates as Lafew and Bruce Alexander as the grumpy King of France. Their grasp of the Shakespearean language and comic timing sadly doesn't continue to all the cast. Will Edgerton's strange and disappointing Lavache seems pointless at the best of times.

This All's Well That Ends Well is pleasing enough with strong individual performances but it falls short of being one of the RSC's more memorable productions of late.

RATING: & #9733 ;& #9733 ;& #9733 ;& #9734 ;& #9734 ;
Running time: 2hrs 40 minutes including a 20 minute interval

!date 23/08/2022 -- 23/08/2022
70735 - 2023-01-26 01:48:59


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