Tag Archives: Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Julius Caesar in times of political freak waves

Andrew Woodall as Julius Caesar

A production in the context of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s “Roman Season”, Stratford-upon-Avon, 3 March to 9 September 217 in Stratford, in London, Barbican Theatre from 24 November 2017 to 20 January 2018, directed by Angus Jackson.

The plot creeps up, subtly at first, suddenly disturbing, urging, electrifying, surging, subsiding and self-destructive like the conspiracy itself. Near impossible not to feel how closely the emotions and demagogy of classical times match our own world of experience, even if the 21st century’s rhetoric is hardly on the same quality level.

Alex Waldmann as Brutus, Kristin Atherton as Calphurnia, Andrew Woodall as Julius Caesar

On the backdrop of Robert Innes Hopkins’s puristic set, reflecting the Roman Republic’s brutal imperialistic arrogance, including the disturbing sculpture of a lion devouring a horse, the well-known drama unfolds in 2.5 gripping hours.
Brutus, in a highly sensitive interpretation by Alex Waldmann, is, in spite of his distinguished social status, an insecure person, torn between his friendship with Caesar and his sense of duty towards Rome. In his attempts to pacify his conscience, he paves the way towards his so literal end. Waldmann gives him traits of a reluctant hero who cannot forgive himself that there was no clean way out, and he depicts him with a tenderness, as if it were his best friend.
Cassius, the actual instigator of the conspiracy, is, impersonated by Martin Hutson, in wonderfully overstrung hands. A character, utterly unimpeded by scruples of any kind, jumping into action out of personal vexation and political conviction, this Cassius is a conveyor of uneasy feelings.

James Corrigan as Mark Anthony, Alex Waldmann als Brutus

Mark Antony, played by James Corrigan, is the seemingly noble picker-upper of shards, ultimately proven right by fate, at least in the context of these events. Corrigan operates his ice-cold calculation, his targeted manipulation with a gentle air of good-boy innocence. In the unequalled funeral speech, he plays people’s minds like an orchestra’s string section and thus unleashes the civil war.Martin Hutson as Cassius
Julius Caesar, as portrayed by Andrew Woodall, is like a fish out of water in non-military life, used to giving orders, an egomaniac who tries to make up for his health deficiency and lack of diplomatic skills with vanity and obsession with power.
Also impressive: Tom McCall as Casca, the cynic who sees Caesar’s interaction with ordinary people as nothing but theatrical gimmicks, which leaves him with sheer contempt for the populace’s darling.
Portia, wife of Brutus, has little time to express her feelings in this male-dominated play, but Hannah Morris is absolutely amazing in filling this part with life.

Photos by Helen Maybanks (c) RSC
Joseph Adelakun – cobbler / Artemidorus / Dardanus
Ben Allen – Cinna the Conspirator / Titanius
Kristin Atherton – Calphurnia
David Burnett – Marullus, a tribune / Trebonius / Pindarus
James Corrigan – Mark Anthony
Paul Dodds – Metellus Cimber / Clitus
Patrick Drury – Cinna The Poet / Publius
Waleed Elgadi – Soothsayer / Claudius
Martin Hutson – Cassius
Tom Lorcan – Publius
Luke MacGregor – Carpenter / Voluminous / Popilus Lena / Strato
Tom McCall – Casca / Lucilius
Hannah Morish – Portia
Anthony Ofoegbu – Cicero / Ligurius
Dharmesh Patel – Decius Brutus / Messala
Lucy Phelps – Waiting Woman
Jon Tarcy – Octavius
Alex Waldmann – Brutus
Marcello Walton – Lepidus / Flavius
Andrew Woodall – Julius Caesar

16 Citizens of Rome

directed by Angus Jackson

music:
Andrew Stone Fewings- trumpet
Angela Whelan – trumpet
Mark Smith – horn
Kevin Pitt – trombone, euphonium
Ian Foster – tuba, euphonium
Gareth Ellis – keyboard

Othello, where everyday horror prevails

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, 4 June – 27 August, 2015, live in cinemas on 26/08/2015

Othello, as per dug out information remembered from school days would look like this: Sneaky Iago drives an easily led black general, Othello, into raging jealousy ending in the murder of his angelic and innocent wife Desdemona. “The green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” Cleverly described, but probably a little racist in the choice of participants.

Othello production images_ 2015_Photo by Keith Pattison _c_ RSC_Othello.2493In this version directed by Iqbal Khan, the picture is significantly more complex. Iago (Lucian Msamati) is by no means fairer skinned than Othello, and already in the first scene, in a gondola together with Roderigo (James Corrigan), the racist reference to Othello as “thick lips” vexes him personally. His main incitement, however, is the blow to his pride caused by Cassio’s promotion in which he was passed over.
Whilst Desdemona’s father (Brian Protheroe) is protesting to the Duke (Nadia Albina) against the kidnapping of his daughter (Joanna Vanderham), Othello is entrusted with the task of rescuing the state.
Hugh Quarshie, appearing here as an authority figure as well as a sensual and attractive specimen of eye candy in the prime of his life, leaves no doubt as to what attracted Desdemona to him. According to Shakespeare’s words, it was pity, hmmm.

After a successful battle, the victory celebrations take place in Cyprus. Joanna Vanderham’s Desdemona, with her dance, does not fail to impress Cassio (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd), the cause of Iago’s wounded pride. Here already, Othello gives us a clue that jealousy is not entirely beyond him.
The atmosphere reaches its climax when, after a folksong from Zimbabwe – sung by Iago-Lucian Msamati, Cassio and Montano (David Ajoa) engage in a rap battle.

Controlled by Iago, the situation becomes messy and turns into a fight. Suddenly, all the lightness is lost.Othello production images_ 2015_Photo by Keith Pattison _c_ RSC_Othello.3234
The next scene painfully reminds the audience of the fact that the world of the military is not throughout unblemished and heroic: From the “almost venial” fight through to the torture of a prisoner, a backdrop of the ever-present open or subliminal violence is drawn.
From now on, Iago is working relentlessly on the kindling of Othello’s jealousy. When Iago’s wife Emilia (Ayesha Dharker) delivers the requested handkerchief that Desdemona dropped, the fuse is set alight.Othello production images_ 2015_Photo by Keith Pattison _c_ RSC_Othello.2866
The web of deceit, wounded honour and self-righteous violence becomes a death-trap for Desdemona, and not just her.

Electrifying, funny, tragic and absolutely convincing, Lucian Msamati dominates the stage as Iago.
Hugh Quarshie’s representation of Othello in his transformation from being amiable, charming and a little boyish to becoming an obsessed “honour” killer is an achievement of nail-biting authenticity.
Joanna Vanderham dances and sparkles her enchanting Desdemona until she becomes anxious and quiet.
Ayesha Dharker fills the part of Emilia with heart and wit, and in her big scene towards the end, she sets off a firework display of emotions.
A massive kudos to the fantastic music under the direction of Akintayo Akinbode.

Photos by Keith Pattison © RSC

Nadia Albina – Duke of Venice
David Ajao – Montano
Scarlett Brookes – Bianca
James Corrigan – Roderigo
Ayesha Dharker – Emilia
Eva Feiler – Citizen of Venice
Owen Findlay – Gentleman of Cyprus
Jacob Fortune-Lloyd – Cassio
Guy Hughes – Soldier
Rina Mahoney – Citizen of Venice
Lucian Msamati – Iago
Ken Nwosu – Gentleman of Cyprus
Brian Protheroe – Brabantio
Hugh Quarshie – Othello
Jay Saighal – Gentleman of Cyprus
Tim Samuels – Lodovico
Joanna Vanderham – Desdemona

Director – Iqbal Khan
Set Designer – Ciaran Bagnall
Costume designer – Fotini Dimou
Lighting – Ciaran Bagnall
Music – Akintayo Akinbode
Sound – Andrew Franks
Movement – Diane Alison-Mitchell
Fight Director – Kev McCurdy

The Christmas Truce on stage

Royal Shakespeare Theatre 29 November 2014 to 31 January 2015

Summer 1914, a cheerful village fete in Warwickshire is all of a sudden overshadowed by the outbreak of the First World War.
Young men sign up for the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, young women join the QA Nurses. We see them in their basic training and accompany them to Ploegsteert Forest, in Belgium.

Bairnsfather (Joseph Kloska) & Kohler (Nick Haverson)

Bairnsfather (Joseph Kloska) & Kohler (Nick Haverson)

It is there that the inconceivable takes its course.
After days of fierce and internecine fighting, on Christmas Eve, German soldiers of the Royal Saxon Infantry Regiment 134 and the Royal Warwickshires met in No-Man’s Land and agree on a truce over Christmas.
Together, they bury their dead comrades, they exchange gifts, they sing together and they play football.

Harris (Peter McGovern) & Clover (Peter Basham)

Harris (Peter McGovern) & Clover (Peter Basham)

Phil Porter gathered these historically documented events in a new play. With tender and harsh strokes, always achieving a lasting impression, he purveys the experience of war’s pawns and makes the audience feel where ruthless gaming of politicians hits home.
The set, designed by the legendary Tom Piper (the London Tower Poppies) in its fascinating simplicity, is an integral art work in itself.
Sam Kenyon deserves the credit for composition and adaptation of the music. In addition to extra fine arrangements, here in particular the breathtakingly beautiful new version of the Ave Maria must be pointed out. Musical Director Bruce O’Neil and his musicians are time and again woven into the action on stage. Together with a stunning lighting design, they lead the audience on their journey. Charles Balfour’s lighting is a masterpiece, its magic creates effortless transitions through emotions and scenes.

Director Erica Whyman selected a fabulous team for this play, the RSC’s 2014 family show.

Joseph Kloska plays Captain Bruce Bairnsfather who already during the war became famous for his cartoons from the trenches. He is relaxed, sceptical and caring, and an absolute star in the frontline theatre.
Old Bill is his most famous character, and here he is, part of his platoon, played by Gerald Horan, a warm-hearted walrus of a Tommy.
Sam Alexander as Captain Riley and Jamie Newall as Colonel Faulkner represent the classical upper-class officers.The Christmas Truce production photos 2014_ press photocall_Photo by Lucy Barriball _c_ RSC_Truce-62a
Touching, hilarious and tragic: Oliver Lynes as clumsy Liggins, and a very special gem: the ever grumpy Private Smith, played by Harry Waller.
On the German side, we encounter Jamie Newall as the contact making Erich, the soldiers Jürgen: Chris McCalphy, Schmidt: Oliver Lynes and Franz: Tunji Kasim.
And there is Leutnant Kohler, disillusioned by war: Nick Haverson, in a portrayal full of warmth and heartfelt depth that makes you want to go and get to know Saxony.
In a blog written by a German native speaker, one thing has to be highlighted and cheered: the (nearly entirely) accent free pronunciation of the German lines by these actors. Well done!
One of my favourite scenes is the moment shared between soldiers Smith and Schmidt.
Brilliant!

Matron (Leah Whitaker) & Mrs Godfrey (Flora Spencer-Longhurst)

Matron (Leah Whitaker) & Mrs Godfrey (Flora Spencer-Longhurst)

Woven in between the soldiering scenes, we find the nurses in the British field hospital.
The QA Nurses Phoebe (gorgeously insubordinate: Frances McNamee), Mrs Godfrey (sweetly posh: Flora Spencer-Longhurst), Maud (Sophie Khan-Levy, who also beautifully plays a singing Belgian country girl) and Staff Nurse Peaches (the delightful bubbly Emma Manton), jointly are struggling with the fallout of war. Whilst they are trying to preserve some cheerfulness, Matron (Leah Whitaker) sees a strict observance of regulations as the best support in hard times, and thus, Christmas Eve is bound to produce friction.

A piece of theatre that engages the audience throughout and confronts us with the only relevant Christmas related question – about the meaning of it all.

Photos: Topher McGrillis © RSC

This blogpost has also been published in German under https://artyviews.wordpress.com/2014/12/22/the-christmas-truce-der-weihnachtswaffenstillstand/

Dance on the edge of the abyss in Love’s Labour’s Lost

Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 23/09/2014 to 14/03/2015
A carefree world – Four young men of noble birth, spared by all menial worries, spend their days training their quick wit and excelling in puns and rhetoric. They plan gaining a better understanding of the world by withdrawing from it.

L-R – Edward Bennett (Berowne),  Sam Alexander (King of Navarre), William Belchambers (Longaville)

L-R – Edward Bennett (Berowne), Sam Alexander (King of Navarre), William Belchambers (Longaville)

An oath of asceticism is sworn for 3 years: no pleasures and definitely no women within the castle.
Shortly afterwards, four equally well born ladies make their appearance. Although they are being lodged at a certain distance, threads soon start spinning by themselves.

In this winter season, for the first time, the RSC shows Love’s Labour’s Lost in direct combination with Love’s Labour’s Won, long considered to be one of Shakespeare’s lost plays, nowadays, however, often assumed to be in fact the play Much Ado About Nothing. This tandem production creates a time frame around the days immediately before and after the First World War.
The amazing set, designed by Simon Higlett, transports the audience to the stately manor of Charlecote near Stratford, a place well known to William Shakespeare, as it was here that he was caught poaching.
The King of Navarre, played by Sam Alexander as a man of disarming naivety, is not a person to have the last word, neither with his entourage nor even for himself.
Amongst his three friends, Berowne is the only one seemingly able to use common sense, however, he displays a hilarious lack of emotional intelligence. Edward Bennet owns his character. He makes him an irresistible cynic who virtually calls for a controlling female hand.

Love_s Labour_s Lost 2014 production photos_Photo by Manuel Harlan _c_ RSC_LOV-49

Edward Bennett (Berowne)

Longaville (William Belchambers) and Dumaine (Tunji Kasim), just as the other two, stumble into the pitfalls of their own feelings. The four protagonists create an unbeatable highlight the turret scene, a firework display of comedy in which they make a last attempt at dissembling their enamouredness.

Love_s Labour_s Lost 2014 production photos_Photo by Manuel Harlan _c_ RSC_LOV-184

Michelle Terry (Rosaline)

Amongst the ladies, Leah Whitaker represents the Princess of France as a distinctly more mature and self-confident person than her male counterpart.
Michelle Terry, as Rosaline and thus Berowne’s flirt partner, keeps sparks flying while generating magnetism. We are allowed a first glimpse at the traits that will return with Beatrice in the “sequel”, Love’s Labour’s Won.

Katherine (Flora Spencer-Longhurst) and Mary (Frances McNamee), the other two ladies-in-waiting, rob the gentlemen’s senses with ease.
The ladies are accompanied by Lord Boyet, the Princess’s equerry (Jamie Newall, what an extraordinary voice!) and Marcadé (Roderick Smith).

Love_s Labour_s Lost 2014 production photos_Photo by Manuel Harlan _c_ RSC_LOV-141

L-R – Frances McNamee (Maria), Michelle Terry (Rosaline), Jamie Newall (Boyet), Flora Spencer-Longhurst (Katharine)

At less gentrified level, too, life is bubbling. Don Armado (John Hodkinson), a Spanish guest, competes with Costard, the gardener (hilariously funny: Nick Haverson) for the dairy maid Jacquenetta’s (Emma Manton, fantastic, a hothouse of energy and wit) favours.

Love_s Labour_s Lost 2014 production photos_Photo by Manuel Harlan _c_ RSC_LOV-74

L-R – Flora Spencer-Longhurst (Katharine), Michelle Terry (Rosaline), Frances McNamee (Maria)

David Horovitch, Thomas Wheatley and Chris McCalphy provide the villagers’ comedy contributions.
As perhaps the only fully sane person of the manor, Moth, the hall boy, Peter McGovern has a smaller part, but in this production he is the one who shapes the musical side by his singing, solo and leading the ensemble’s songs.
Oh the music: Nigel Hess composed a dazzling romantic musical accompaniment to the play, performed live and conducted by John Woolf, underlining and highlighting the atmosphere, a special treat in itself.
Directed by Christopher Luscombe.
A delight not to be missed!

Photos by Manuel Harlan © RSC

also posted in German under http://artyviews.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/spielerische-gefuhlszweifler-in-loves-labours-lost-verlorene-liebesmuh/

Henry IV Part I and Part II or Detours of a budding King

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Antony Sher (Sir John Falstaff) and Alex Hassell (Prince Hal)

An heir to the throne with a ruined reputation, in permanent company of an overweight alcoholic and other dubious characters, all that on the background of rebelling earls and looming civil war – that in itself would be enough to endanger the throne’s stability. The situation is, however, aggravated by increasing self-doubt regarding the question whether all that might not be God’s punishment for the usurpation of Richard II’s crown by Henry IV and his subsequent murder – leading to nervous and unwise decisions.

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Antony Sher (Sir John Falstaff)

Henry IV is the starting and turning point of these Shakespeare dramas, but in fact, he is not the main character. The plays are, on the one hand, about the difficulty to accept the burden of responsibility, on the other hand about the life of audiences’ all-time favourite Falstaff, the personification of hedonism, at the same time mercilessly living at the expense of others.

Anthony Sher is just magnificent in his role as Falstaff. He is padding around, moaning, celebrating and philosophising and he keeps a firm and joyful hold on the audience. Fabulous in his clowny scenes and just the right amount of nastiness at times when his ruthlessness shines through. Alex Hassel is Prince Hal, the future King Henry V. Throughout, from being a wayward princeling up to the breath-taking moment of his coronation, Alex makes his character palpable and believable.

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Paola Dionisotti (Mistress Quickly) and Antony Sher (Sir John Falstaff)

In the tavern, it is Paola Dionisotti as crafty Mistress Quickly, who rules supreme; in part II she is supported by Nia Gwynne as a touching Doll Tearsheet.
Falstaff’s and Prince Hal’s tavern mates, Ned Poins (Sam Marks) and Bardolph (Joshua Richards) keep the comedy atmosphere dense. Pistol (Antony Byrne) and Beadle (Simon Yadoo) complete the picture in the second part.

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L-R – Jim Hooper (Silence), Antony Sher (Sir John Falstaff) and Oliver Ford Davies (Shallow)

The rebellious faction is initially led by Hotspur, real name Harry Percy, son and heir to the Earl of Northumberland. Trevor White plays this young rebel with his tumultuous nickname as just that, hot-tempered, hyperactive and barely controllable. An outstanding decision, at last the dynamics between those two exponential opposites, Hal and Hotspur, becomes comprehensible. Their sword fight represents a tearing pace highlight towards the end of part I, in an accomplishment second to none.

Part II, with the second rebellion, the King’s illness and Falstaff’s mission to recruit soldiers, takes the scene to Gloucestershire, where Justice Shallow (Oliver Ford Davies) and Justice Silence (Jim Hooper) add new and in their subtleness absolutely ingenious comical accents.

HF2_KL_DRESS-456

Alex Hassell (Prince Hal)

Henry IV – Jasper Britton, who in a superbly simple but impressive manner gives shape to this often neglected title character – the unsettled king dies, not without having first made peace with his son Hal.

Falstaff had already imagined himself as confidant to the new king, but now he learns that Hal came to understand that he could not trust this tavern friendship.

Director Gregory Doran, with these two productions from the histories cycle, has added a new double crown to this psychologically rich Shakespeare material.

Apart from the above mentioned actors and many superb others, the two boys Luca Saraceni-Gunner and Jonathan Williams deserve a special mention as Falstaff’s cheeky page.

In her support role as Lady Mortimer, Nia Gwynne creates a particularly unforgettable moment in part I, when she sings for her husband in Welsh. A goosebumps moment!

Henry IV Part I and Part II will be on stage in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre until 6th September 2014, thereafter in 7 further theatres around the country, amongst which the Barbican Theatre London from 29th November to 24th January.

On 14th May Part I and on 18th June 2014 Part II will be screened live in cinemas worldwide.

Photos by Kwame Lestrade

Video: Greg Doran on Henry IV

Richard II – The King with the bored look on his face

Production in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avonrichard2
directed by Gregory Doran

Stratford has had a massive buzz of excitement for a somewhat shorter run: David Tennant back at the RSC, playing the lead role in Richard II – the king who felt too safe in his divine right to the throne, and consequently lost it all. Richard is also one of the kings with ongoing rumours about his sexual inclination.

Tennant’s interpretation, after the early previews with just a hint of campness, has been a highly credible display of a basically insecure young man who is only sure of one thing: that he is always right and that God gave him the entitlement to do just as he pleases. Floating on stage, angelic in dress and hairstyle,  ‘luvvy’ at times, a loose canon immediately afterwards, dangerously unpredictable: a weak, profoundly bored king who takes the world and its inhabitants as his toys.

David Tennant rolls out his full potential, and it has left audiences breathless night after night. Especially in the second half, when King Richard is faced with the loss of everything he believed in, he is masterly. What is it about toes? Seeing a character’s emotions displayed through actors’ toes always cracks it for me… Amazing! Incredibly well done!

Nigel Lindsay (Bolingbroke), David Tennant (Richard II) Background: L-R- Simon Thorp (Surrey), OliverRix (Aumerle), Jim Hooper (Bishop of Carlisle), Keith Osborn (Abbot), Sean Chapman (Northumberland), Youssef Kerkour (Fitzwater), Edmund Wiseman (Harry Percy)

Nigel Lindsay (Bolingbroke), David Tennant (Richard II)
Background: L-R- Simon Thorp (Surrey), OliverRix (Aumerle), Jim Hooper (Bishop of Carlisle), Keith Osborn (Abbot), Sean Chapman (Northumberland), Youssef Kerkour (Fitzwater), Edmund Wiseman (Harry Percy)

Richard’s counterpart is Bollingbroke, later to be King Henry IV, here portrayed by Nigel Lindsay. A bit of a rough character, one is led to think, he oozes noble intentions, looks martial throughout and intimidates Richard and those loyal to him enough to make him King instead.

Absolute gems in this production, that’s the group of well-seasoned actors:
Michael Pennington as John of Gaunt, who delivers the famous “Sceptered isle” speech in a refreshing, questioning attitude, rather than the so often used fervent patriotic approach, brings a lot of honesty to this medieval tycoon. His rendition allows one of Shakespeare’s favourite backhanders, the “What’s changed?” question, to shine through to the 21st century.

John of Gaunt’s brother, the Duke of York, is played by Oliver Ford Davies, a warm-hearted masterpiece of acting.

A very special treat is their brother Woodstock’s widow, breathtakingly acted by Jane Lapotaire, who absolutely nails it in this, her first appearance on stage after ten years.

Also very touching, Oliver Rix as York’s son Aumerle.

The music by Paul Englishby is enthralling throughout, but especially as performed by the three sopranos Charlotte Ashley, Anna Bolton and Helena Raeburn.

All of this is performed to the background of an amazing set. Stephen Brimson Lewis, the set designer, uses a lowered stage with inbuilt dungeon and a background of silvery-golden chains. Visual projection on these chains creates depth of scale and turns the view into cathedral, castle, curtain in a stunning 3-D display.

Richard II is being performed at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon from 10 October 2013 – 16 November 2013, and from 9 December 2013 to 25 January 2014 at the Barbican Theatre, London.

Photo by Kwame Lestrade
Richard II has been broadcast live in cinemas around the world on 13 November 2013 and it is going to be shown in lots more over the next few months.


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