In forty years of theatre going, I had by no means seen William Shakespeare’s All’s Nicely That Ends Nicely so it was a delight to journey as much as Stratford upon Avon to see the Royal Shakespeare Firm’s newest manufacturing on a summer time night. The gorgeous setting by the river the place we sat for an hour earlier than eating a three-course meal within the glorious the Rooftop Restaurant of the theatre was an ideal prequel to the play. But this manufacturing of what’s typically described as a “drawback play” fell far wanting these expectations partially because of the restricted view from the stalls seat alongside the Stage left walkway from the thrust stage to the again of the auditorium. Little doubt different viewers members had a unique expertise to ours however the director Blanche Mcintyre’s resolution to continuously place forged members the place the walkway joins the stage shortly brought on the Scene 1 irritation to vary to frustration and have become an enormous distraction in order that the performances couldn’t be loved.
The Director’s idea and imaginative and prescient for fixing the “drawback” of the play have been to set it in a modern-day social media world the place scene adjustments have been lined by projections of screenshots from forged members telephones. These flashing photographs might have been witty and intelligent, however they handed so shortly that they only added to the confusion. There have been hints of references to trendy atrocities akin to baby grooming, predatory behaviours, and jihadist executions and the notorious “mattress trick” swap was modified to a garish rave with Helena and Diana in inexperienced, fluorescent wigs. Nevertheless, it was tough to consider Bertram was fooled by the swap. All this will have been designed to draw a younger demographic to Shakespeare’s birthplace and justified as reflecting the true world immediately simply as Shakespeare would have completed in his day, however it has to help the narrative and the performers within the storytelling not distract from it.
Claire Benedict and Bruce Alexander because the Countess and King of France introduced a powerful formal regal air to the play talking the phrases with nice understanding and readability and conveying the that means with ardour and energy. Each acquired into their stride when free of the upstage props that hampered their early scenes, the Countess awkwardly behind a big desk and the King in a daft NHS hospital mattress. After all, nothing can clarify the miraculous treatment he experiences from his demise mattress to sprightly and energetic arbitrator between the couple. Simon Coates offers glorious assist to them as Lafew with some good comedian touches and beautiful readability of supply.
Central to the story should be a plausible infatuation and need of Helena for Bertram and Bertram for Diana which causes the occasions we see. However from Helena’s first look dressed as a really young-looking schoolgirl to her closing confrontation as a closely pregnant spouse, we by no means sense her love or adoration for Bertram. Rosie Sheehy does nevertheless pack within the feelings of ache, pressure and misery and engages the viewers effectively in her soliloquies. Benjamin Westerby as Bertram by no means convinces both portraying a relatively weak man that’s onerous to consider girls are falling for throughout France and Italy. Olivia Onyehara as a really young-looking harmless Diana appears too younger to even have interaction with him as she does.
The very best characterisation is Jamie Wilkes as Parolles who engages the viewers brilliantly in his opening scene after which progressively deconstructs the persona because the play progresses, dropping his American accent and self-confidence and at last his garments together with a relatively too apparent Rambo-esque muscle swimsuit. He executes an amusing Proscenium arch entrance to nice comedian impact and has good enterprise together with his DRUM. The overly lengthy mock execution scenes are painful to observe and add nothing to the narrative. At the very least within the closing scenes, he seems to get his mojo again! There are too many different superfluous characters like Lavache wearing a mini the minx jumper or the Lords of the court docket who play on an Xbox that add nothing to the storytelling.
The setting too doesn’t assist the narrative with a big metallic dome that creaks as is hoisted into place to assist a curtain for court docket scenes that travels nosily into place after which is extensively wearing inexperienced canvas for the second act with out including a lot to the setting. The interval chairs appear at odds with the hospital beds and projected Photos. The eight musicians may have been used significantly better to cowl the noisy scene adjustments.
This is named a “drawback” play and maybe my issues with the manufacturing would have been lessened if I used to be sat with a correct view of the performances, if I used to be twenty years youthful and lived my life on social media or if I had seen the play earlier than and will relate to the adjustments that they had made. Maybe others watching will carry that data to their expertise. Because it was the occasional well-spoken strains of Shakespearean verse by the senior characters, the pleasant engagement of the viewers by Parolles and Helena within the early scenes and the vitality and energy of the ensemble that have been, for me, overwhelmed by the alternatives made by the Director and in consequence, all was not effectively by the tip.
Evaluation by Nick Wayne
Seat: Stalls, G 30 | Value of Ticket: £65
Photograph by Ikin Yum (c) RSC