I very much enjoyed the Stratford Festival production of All’s Well That Ends Well at the Tom Patterson Theatre under the direction of Scott Wentworth. Curiously it was the third production we saw at the Festival this year that begins with a grave (Richard III & Hamlet) – a subtext?
In All’s Well it is the grave of Helen’s (Jessica B. Hill) father who has left her in the care of Countess of Rossillion (Seana McKenna). The Countess sees Helen as her own daughter to such a degree that she insists Helen call her mother – which might explain why her son Bertram (Jordin Hall) is repulsed at the thought of marrying his sister. The main plot of the play is how Helen manipulates Bertram into consummating & accepting their marriage.
The cast handles Shakespeare’s witty dialogue very well. The scenes between Seana & her sexton, André Sills crackle with playful energy & subtle sexual tension. It is their ‘relationship’ that, for me, holds the play together. In fact all of André’s scenes were great fun as he gave the sexton a real sexual magnetism that was a pointed contrast to Jordin’s nearly total lack of sexual energy – what did Helen find so appealing about him? I did feel a little sympathy for him as he surrendered to Helen’s manipulations.
There was also great crackle in Parolles (Rylan Wilkie) meditation-on-virginity scenes with Helen & his exchanges with Lafew (Wayne Best). Parolles is this play’s Mavolio. A man who sees himself in a different light than anyone else sees him. Rylan plays him well & Parolles’ comeuppance is perhaps the play’s most comic scene. Even in defeat his ‘redemption’ shows him unbowed.
The staging was simple, effective & the cast rolled pedestals, beds & baggage trollies on & off stage without disrupting the flow of the play. I particularly loved the military costumes with their gaudy epaulets, elaborate strings of gold & rows of shiny medals. Of course Parolles’ uniform had the most fringe. Smoke billowing out of suitcases was a fun dramatic visual. Highly recommended.
reviews of shows I’ve seen this past season: