Though its title has become a platitude, All’s Well That Ends Well remains one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays.
This ‘problem play’ charts doctor’s daughter Helena’s attempts to win her childhood friend Count Bertram in marriage after he rejects her due to her lack of noble birth.
Tom Littler’s accessible, streamlined production is performed by a cast of six with the necessary doubling and tripling. Littler imbues the production with an angsty vibe that doesn’t fully mine the highs and lows of the odd story.
The setting appears to be the present day; there’s a nostalgic 1970s folk-rock soundtrack and the play takes place in a rather odd room made of boxes. Twin pianos showcase the talents of multi-tasking actor-musicians Stefan Bednarczyk and Ceri-Lyn Cissone but at times it feels as if the music is overpowering the language.
Miranda Foster plays a trio of senior ladies with great style – she’s particularly good as the caring Countess of Roussillion. Gavin Fowler makes the handsome Bertram into a spoiled individual who is capable of growth, as he rejects his friendship with the louche Parrolles (Robert Mountford).
The character of Helena is granted an unusual amount of control over her narrative for a Shakespearean heroine. Hannah Morrish has a beautifully natural way with the language in the role and gives a compelling performance as a young woman who is struggling to find her place in the world and yet knows exactly what she wants.