I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to see this production in Guildford as I always try to see everything that Guildford Shakespeare Company (GSC) produce, but what a treat! I get to see it in the delightful Jermyn Street Theatre for GSC’s first London transfer.
Most of the set is covered with dust sheets as we take our seats but enough is showing to see that this production has a modern setting, although not too modern as the LPs and video tapes are evident on the shelving around the set.
Director Tom Littler has brilliantly edited Shakespeare’s play down to work with just 6 actors, I doubt he could have fitted more in this intimate space! The play begins with Helena (Hannah Morrish) sitting in her bedroom mourning her father who was a renowned Doctor. She is swigging back wine and playing music far too loudly. We learn that since her father died she has been cared for by the Countess of Roussillon (Miranda Foster) alongside her own son, Bertram (Gavin Fowler). The two are childhood friends and Helena is secretly in love with Bertram although he is unaware of this. When his father dies he decides to leave home and travel to Paris to attend the ailing Queen (Miranda Foster again). The Countess and Helena agree that she should follow him, which she does and while she is there she uses the knowledge she gained from her father to cure the Queen who everyone thought was dying. The grateful Queen promises her any husband she wishes for and Helena naturally chooses Bertram. Heartbreakingly, Bertram rejects her but is forced to marry her by the Queen. After their hastily arranged marriage he leaves for the Italian war with his boastful, swaggering friend Parolles (Robert Mountford).
The highs and lows of Helena and Bertram’s emotional path are illustrated by the imaginative use of music. It is impossible to pick any of the cast out; they are all amazing, although I was particularly impressed by Ceri-Lyn Cissone and Stefan Bednarczyk who dazzle with their piano playing as well as playing their roles. Ceri also stars with Robert in one of the funniest scenes of the production when she tricks the captured, blindfolded Parolles into thinking he is being questioned by more than one person and gets him to betray Bertram.
Music tells much of the story in this production from simple bleeping to convey hospital monitors through despair and eventual happiness. As my two loves are theatre and music, I particularly enjoyed spotting and identifying the classic albums used in the production.
This is a beautiful magical production, I am not sure if 5 stars really does it justice.
Review by Sally Knipe
“The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together.”
When his father dies, Bertram rejects his friends, abandons his mother, and flees his childhood home. But the orphaned Helena refuses to give up hope. Following in her father’s footsteps, she becomes a doctor, saves a monarch’s life, and crosses half of Europe in the passionate pursuit of her happiness.
Gavin Fowler plays Bertram.
Hannah Morrish plays Helena.
Miranda Foster plays the Countess.
Robert Mountford plays Parolles.
Two pianos are played live by acclaimed cabaret performer, actor and Jermyn Street Theatre regular Stefan Bednarczyk (who also plays Lafew) and Ceri-Lyn Cissone (who also plays Diana), whose recent credits include Anne
Elliot in Persuasion.
ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Tom Littler
Set and costume design by Neil Irish with Anett Black
A co-production with Guildford Shakespeare Company
All’s Well That Ends Well
Wed, 6th – Sat, 30th November 2019