What: All’s Well That Ends Well by William Shakespeare
Where: The Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST), Stratford-upon-Avon
When: August 22-28 2022 (runs until late October 2022)
Who: The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)
William Shakespeare’s “All’s Well That Ends Well” is, they say, a problem play. Having read all the main literature on that subject, I’m still not convinced on that subject, but this I do know – the RSC’s current production of it makes it more of a problem than it needs to be.
Having spent several days with it, I have seen this production become less of a mess. However, it needs to be said that director Blanche McIntyre, designer Robert Innes Hopkins, and video designer Douglas O’Connell, have thrown so much into this, their attempt at the play, that doesn’t need to be there that it is always struggling under a heavy weight.
The play we are told in the programme and through what happens on the stage bears comparison with modern social media relationships, Because this theme only appears sporadically and in the intermittent moments between scenes, it is very hard to be convinced. Nothing here convinces me of the necessity of its inclusion and that the watcher gains very little understanding of the play from it being there.
Costumes are largely a mess. Helena (Rosie Sheehy) starts out in a school girl’s uniform (we have a Roman Catholic High School Girls’ school that has one just like it) and is later found looking unconvincingly pregnant. The soldier’s appear in modern day khaki. Lavache (Will Edgerton) looks like a cross between Dennis the Menace and Plastic Bertrand.
There are young men playing video games. There are modern medical beds. Other characters appear like they have come from further back, in times gone by.
But, and it is quite a large but, there are good performances here which warm up as the days go along.
Bruce Alexander (King of France), who you will know from television and elsewhere is appropriately statesmenlike and delivers the best performance here.
James Wilkes (Parolles) carries his role well and fills it with passion and energy. Simon Coates as Lafew is another senior actor delivering well.
And, so it goes. If you find yourself wandering through Stratford-upon-Avon in the next few weeks, choose Richard III.
But, if you have a second spare evening, then All’s Well That Ends Well is not a complete waste of your time.