All's Well That Ends Well - London (WE) 2009
May 28, 2009
Gay Times ****
Allís very well indeed at the National as the new production in their Travelex £10 season, Allís Well That Ends Well, is a classy staging of a warm-hearted if bizarre fairytale.
Young Helena fancies sexy Bertram but the feelings arenít reciprocated. When she cures the King of Franceís fistula, the King repays the debt with a promise that she can marry anyone she wishes. She chooses Bertam, who refuses - saying that he would only marry her if she got the ring from his finger and bore his child, i.e. never.
Thatís what he thinks. He heads off to war, but Helena- with a typically cunning Shakespearean plan- manages to trick her way into his affections and his bed.
This is not one of Shakespeareís more complicated plots and it is possible to feel that it doesnít quite merit its three hour playing time. But Marianne Elliott, whose star continues to rise following her stupendous productions of Saint Joan and current hit War Horse provides a tight, witty, consciously eccentric production complete with projections of wolves and owls and fairytale tableaux to balance the more gothic, Tim Burton-ish textures of Rae Smithís design.
Michelle Terryís charm and sweetness as Helena is irresistible, but it is Conleth Hill as Parolles - the pirate-looking friend of Bertram - whose performance defines the evening. Clare Higgins and Oliver Ford-Davies (giving much the same performance as he did most recently in David Tenantís Hamlet) give the kinds of performances that prove why they are so constantly to be seen at this address.
Allís Well is light, witty, charming and (with many tickets at £10) inexpensive Ė a great cocktail of pleasures for a summer evening.