All’s Well That Ends Well

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Execution

by William Shakespeare

Link to cast & production team

Link to what the critics said

Link to photo gallery

 

Alls Well that Ends Well – 24-28 February 2004

Like in a fairy tale, against all odds Helena wins her man. Sadly, her prince is a frog – but life’s never simple, nobody’s a saint, and there’s no accounting for taste.

Another great Bard in the Yard production.

A Problem Play?

For many years the play was branded a ‘problem play’ and received only rare stagings around the world. But John Marwick, who directed this 2004 production of the play in Eastbourne, believed it deserved a much better name and a wider audience.  Here is his media release from the show.

“It’s an overlooked gem” Marwick says – and he seems to be in good company. Britain’s Royal Shakespeare Company’s production opened at Stratford-on-Avon in December starring Dame Judi Dench in what the Guardian’s theatre critic called an “exquisite production of this infinitely fascinating play”.

Marwick, creator and usual director of the Bard in the Yard series, sees the play as an intriguing mix of reality and romance. Shakespeare he says has written characters with very real human frailties and set them in a fairy tale story. In the past that combination was thought to be unclear, unworkable and too difficult, so, when it was produced, directors tended to emphasise either reality or romance.

But modern theatre audiences are much more comfortable with ambiguity and shades of meaning. “We’re used to anti-heroes and black comedy,” Marwick says “and we don’t always expect that everything will work out perfectly.”

Marwick thinks that in this play Shakespeare deliberately pushes the boundaries of ambiguity. To underline this and the play’s uncertain ending Marwick has added a question mark to the title: All’s Well that Ends Well?

An intensive rehearsal period is just starting for the 12 strong cast most of whom are locals and have appeared in previous Bard in the Yard shows – though two are making the journey from Wellington. Parts are keenly sought after and actors keep coming back for more. This despite the difficulties of Shakespeare’s language, learning lines in only six weeks, and presenting ‘in the round’ and outdoors (though they move inside if the weather turns bad).

As in previous years the format for the shows is to strip the plays down to bare essentials. The venue is literally a yard – in this case the Muritai School Yard. Audience are seated around the acting area with only simple lighting and minimal set. Even costume is minimised so that the whole attention focuses on Shakespeare’s language, his story and the people in it.

Marwick says that when he follows this format and trusts to Shakespeare’s genius and understanding of human nature “we always find the magic of the plays.”

The play, as one of the characters says, is about life as a mingled yarn of good and ill together. There will be moments to smile and laugh and times to cry and wonder at our fellow man.

As usual the world’s greatest playwright “holds the mirror up to nature.”

Cast & Production Team

Cast

Countess of Rousillon

Fran Baldock

Bertram, Count of Rousillon

Ben Cain

Lafeu, a lord

Jerry Duckor

Helena, a ward of the Countess

Rowan Macrae

Parolles, a follower of Bertram

Peter Baldock

Reynalda, Countess’ steward

Sandra Gillespie

King of France

Michael McDonald

First Lord Dumaine

Campbell Packer

Second Lord Dumaine

Will Clannachan

Third Lord

Reuben Hardie

Widow Capilet

Anne Manchester

Diana Capilet, widow’s daughter

Marie Hodson

Mariana, widow’s neighbour

Sandra Gillespie

Morgan, a soldier

Reuben Hardie

Second soldier

Ben Cain

Production

Director

John Marwick

Assistant Directors

Laurie Atkinson, Jerry Duckor

Stage Managers & Front of House

Kate Booth, Janis Caddy

Costumes

Carol Thompson

Props

Julia Stuart

Rehearsal Assistant

Julie Duckor

Music

Bill Wollerman

What the Critics Said

Cast turns in fine comic performances

 

WHAT: All’s Well That Ends Well, by William Shakespeare, directed by John Marwick

WHERE: Butterfly Creek Theatre Troupe, Muritai School, Eastbourne, till February 28

Reviewed by: Ewen Coleman

SOMETIMES, a simple and unencumbered production of a Shakespearean play that focuses clearly on the plots and sub-plots and the richness of his words can overcome their many perceived problems, which is borne out in Butterfly Creek Theatre Troupe’s excellent production of All’s Well That Ends Well, their Bard in the Yard production for this year.

Written late in Shakespeare’s life, it is a much heavier comedy than his earlier ones with its complex and convoluted story lines about death, betrayal, hate and loss of love. Yet this production was able to subjugate many of the play’s difficulties, bringing out the humour while still managing to portray the play’s darker elements. Helena, of lower birth, chases Bertram, a nobleman. Eventually, with the help of the king, she snares her man, but he won’t have a bar of her, preferring instead the more nubile Florentine girls.

They do, however, end up getting married, but Bertram rushes off to war before the marriage is consummated. Not to be outdone, Helena convinces his current mistress Diana to swap places with her in his bed. As a consequence, Helena becomes pregnant, thus making the reluctant cad Bertram accept her as his wife.

Although the story’s resolution appears to be based on the premise that in the dark, aIl women are alike to men, it does have a number of redeeming features, not the least of: which is the subplot of the rise and fall of the scoundrel Parolles, Bertram’s companion.

As Parolles, Peter Baldock is excellent. His understated performance and masterful delivery of some of the Bard’s funniest lines, along with lots of comic action from director John Marwick, make this the highlight of the production.

He is ably supported by fine performances from the rest of the cast, in particular Ben Cain and Rowan Macrae who, as Bertram and Helena, bring depth and understanding to what are essentially unsympathetic characters, making this simple but effective production of one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays enjoyably entertaining.

Photo Gallery

Helena and King Helena Lafeu & Countess
Bertram & Diana Parrolles & Helena Mock execution

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