Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Monday, June 29, 2009

All’s Well That Ends Well

Perhaps it’s wrong to express surprise at having thoroughly enjoyed some Shakespeare, but I really hadn’t expected “All’s Well That Ends Well” at the Royal National Theatre (this year’s birthday treat) to be such jolly fun. No massive stars on display, but some familiar faces (Clare Higgins, Oliver Ford Davies, Michael Thomas, Janet Henfrey), with the meatiest roles taken by Conleth Hill (Parolles, lusty buffoon) and Michelle Terry (Helena, feisty heroine), in a star-making turn. It’s known as a problem play, because of its illogical ending (Bertram, the young nobleman, having spent the entire play running away from the besotted Helena, to the point of going to war, suddenly decides to give in, merely because she happens to be pregnant with his child), but it all seemed to make sense here, thanks to some clever visual touches such as judicious use of silhouettes, animated backdrops and symbolic costume-changes (the Bunny-style outfits were an especially nice touch). The 1110-seating Olivier auditorium was virtually full (it being a matinee, full of pensioners), and there was much laughter, most of it prompted by Hill. Director Marianne Elliot kept things moving, and even made a virtue of those unavoidable moments where there were a lot of people hanging about with nothing to do. A grand day out.

Most pleasing rediscovery, courtesy of a cheaply purchased Charlie Chaplin DVD box-set: “Monsieur Verdoux”; witty, charming and politically provocative, even today. Not to mention “The Great Dictator”, lest we forget.


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