Tag Archives: Nicolas Tennant

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

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Hamlet, my Hamlet

“How shall I hold back my soul that it doesn’t touch yours?” This question from Rilke‘s Love Song arises in a worried tone, here. Hamlet is the emotional highlight this year’s RSC productions. This production by David Farr hits the audience’s nerve where it is raw.

Jonathan Slinger (Hamlet)

Jonathan Slinger (Hamlet)

Elsinore in the paltry and dismal atmosphere of an old gym, soulless courtiers, phrases and masks as default mode…  Hamlet, the son of a murdered father can’t make up his mind to perform the promised revenge, and by his not-acting destroys the lives of practically everybody involved. Traditionally, he is a hesitator-too-much-thinker, maybe weak of character, overly cautious.
Jonathan Slinger opens up an abyss of depression, the symptoms of which have an effect that is as much self-destructive as family-destructive. Slinger’s Hamlet hits deep, and he does so over 3.5 hours.

Pippa Nixon (Ophelia)

Pippa Nixon (Ophelia)

Ophelia (Pippa Nixon) has no chance to distance herself. She invests her entire, innocent love and burns herself, body and soul, on her feelings. Pippa’s state of being lost, when her reason is bowled over, and her saved solitude in her grave, that remains visible through to the end, are truly breathtaking.

Greg Hicks (Claudius)

Greg Hicks (Claudius)

Father’s ghost and Uncle Claudius are taken to new dimensions. Claudius comes over as one of these self-justifying offenders who keep convincing themselves that all their evil deeds happened for the common good. Hick’s body language enriches Shakespeare’s Hamlet by a full chapter of cues for spectators.

Hamlet’s friend Horatio is a further highlight. Alex Waldmann brings warmth to a world without a perspective.

Alex Waldmann (Horatio)

Alex Waldmann (Horatio)

A brilliant scene of distance from emotional horror and a relaxed view is due to David Fielder as the gravedigger.

It’s an ensemble in which each individual would deserve a mention, not least Robin Soans as Polonius, Charlotte Cornwell as Gertrude …
the all surpassing impression, however, that’s Jonathan Slinger’s masterpiece – Hamlet, my Hamlet.

Jonathan Slinger (Hamlet)

Jonathan Slinger (Hamlet)

Hamlet will be on stage in the Theatre Royal, Newcastle Fri 18 October to Sat 26 October 2013.
Video clip

Photos by Keith Pattison

This post was first published in German on 13/08/2013 here