Monthly Archives: September 2013

All’s Well That Ends Well – Really?

“All’s Well That Ends Well”, an RSC production at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle begin November

What on earth was Shakespeare thinking, when he took the story about a tricked marriage from Boccaccio’s Decamerone and put it into his incomparable verse?
You might wonder whether he himself had doubts if people were going to buy the plot, when listening to Helena, the female lead, explaining her hidden feelings.

Joanna Horton (Helena)

Joanna Horton (Helena)

There is no envying Joanna Horton for this scene. Helena seems to rather want to be hiding behind the Countess’s (Charlotte Cornwell), her foster mother’s, potted plants, and yet she has to argue her case before the world, why she wants this particular man who is such a bad match for her. You’d like to tell her there are other mothers with interesting sons.
Helena loves her ward’s son, Bertram, who isn’t interested in her.

Alex Waldmann (Bertram), Charlotte Cornwell (Countess of Rossillion)

Alex Waldmann (Bertram), Charlotte Cornwell (Countess of Rossillion)

Alex Waldmann as Bertram, manages to look not a day older than 16, when, as a happy puppy, he is frolicking around with his mates, doesn’t know how to react to his father’s death, and casually moves to the King’s court.

Now Helena takes an initiative that seems a big leap for her character; upon hearing about the King’s (Greg Hicks) illness, she understands that she will be in a position to claim a favour, if she cures him.

Greg Hicks (King of France)

Greg Hicks (King of France)

Greg Hicks’ part is intriguing and has its strongest moments in the King’s illness. When recovered, well, he’s kingly. Greg Hicks is good at that.

When Helena’s plan works out, due to a miraculous medicine, and she is married to the puppy, the young and, understandably, rather frustrated husband, escapes to the wars, the bigger boys’ playground.
Impressively staged: Bertram’s changing into the uniform and the magnificently reduced fight scenes.

Alex Waldmann (Bertram) - raised up, Jonathan Slinger (Parolles) – in background, Daniel Easton, Michael Grady-Hall, Chris Jared, Samuel Taylor (Soldiers)

Alex Waldmann (Bertram) – raised up, Jonathan Slinger (Parolles) – in background, Daniel Easton, Michael Grady-Hall, Chris Jared, Samuel Taylor (Soldiers)

Helena, now deeply frustrated herself, follows Bertram to the city of his garrison, disguised as a pilgrim. Young Diana (fabulous: Natalie Klamar), to whom Bertram has been making advances, plots with Helena, invites him to her bedroom, where Helena, in darkness and without speaking, succeeds in getting pregnant by him.

This second ambush finally has Bertram defeated, he promises eternal love.
A likely result … Shakespeare himself seems happy to sow some doubt regarding lasting success. The King closes his part with the words:
“All yet seems well; and if it end so meet,
The bitter past, more welcome is the sweet.” 5.3.43

In an era when marriages for romantic reasons were far from being standard, these doubts must have worked in an even more conniving way than they do today. It was a difficult source material for a difficult comedy. Comedy? Truly Shakespeare.

This is a play that isn’t staged very often, and, even in this great production by Nancy Meckler, the plot feels strangely awkward.
Kudos to Joanna Horton, Alex Waldmann, Jonathan Slinger, Charlotte Cornwall, Natalie Klamar, Karen Archer, David Fielder and all the others who made this production well worth seeing and food for thought.

Alex Waldmann (Bertram)

Alex Waldmann (Bertram)

Jonathan Slinger (Parolles)

Jonathan Slinger (Parolles)

All’s Well will be on stage  at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle from 5 – 9 November.

photos by: Ellie Kurttz

First published in German on 19/09/2013 by artyviews

Advertisements

Candide – Optimism is Cruelty

Matthew Needham as Candide

Matthew Needham as Candide

“Candide“ (A play inspired by Voltaire’s satirical novel from 1759) RSC production at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

Leaps in time, clips of scenes, zapping through the human realm of experience – this Candide is, with a deep bow to Voltaire, a brand new play by Mark Ravenhill, fitting the 21st century.
Starting in a somewhat classicistic ambiente:

Dwane Walcott as Candide

Dwane Walcott as Candide

Candide the stranded hero, after his odysseys from one world failing to meet the ideal, to the next, he is giving up, however, incited through the presentation of his voltairian experiences, he takes up his search for the beloved Cunegonde again.

Before the audience can utter a sigh, the script zaps on and displays painful pictures of a monstruous birthday party that ends in an ecologically correct killing spree.

– New picture, even more macabre than the one before:

Sarah Ridgeway as Sophie

Sarah Ridgeway as Sophie

Mother trying to go creatively through the psychological process of coping with the extermination of her family. – A gentler picture following, Eldorado. The hero is on the road again, apparently in paradise, but again in the wrong movie.

Richard Goulding as Screenwriter and Rose Reynolds as The Girl

Richard Goulding as Screenwriter and Rose Reynolds as The Girl

He ends up in the laboratory of Panglosss Institue, a Biotech firm that has isolated the happiness genome and wants to create sustainable happiness for mankind. Candide was deep-frozen until his freedom was paid for by Sarah, his female alter ego. And – at last he meets Cunegonde again. Be careful what you wish for, Candide.

Susan Engel as Cunegonde

Susan Engel as Cunegonde

Ravenhill doesn’t provoke thought, he whips his audience on this way and barrs everybody’s Not-Me exit with their own laughter.

The ensemble play. Pleasurably, masochistically, and perhaps even oblivious to the world, they fathom the facettes of the unlucky search for happiness. You feel a bit like a voyeur and still can’t look away.

Lyndsey Turner’s direction is fabulous, and she is working with a fantastic team.

Magnificent: Matthew Needham and Dwane Walcott as Candide – Voltaire would have wept with joy.
Rose Reynolds as young Cunegonde is ravishing, and together with Ian Redford as Pangloss, they hold comedy at fever pitch.
Absolutely great: Katy Stephens as Sarah, she gets under your skin, every single moment.
Cunegonde the mature, gorgeous, Susan Engel, she has the longest monologue of the play, and she delivers it breathtakingly. A treat.
And the according text: Print out and hang up, please.

Voltaire was a harsh critic of Shakespeare, thought him to be lacking ‚bon gout‘. Ravenhill, on the other hand, in his new take, comes over with exquisite allusions to some of the Master’s quotations that stick so firmly on everybody’s consciousness.

One of these to close: All the world is an XBox. The men and women – players. We have our avatars and our levels, and our points to score.

Katy Stephens as Sarah and Matthew Needham as Candide

Katy Stephens as Sarah and Matthew Needham
as Candide

Photos by Manuel Harlan (©RSC)

This post was first published in German on 09/07/2013 here