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All's Well That Ends Well - Shakespeare in the Squares Review

Updated: Jun 28


4 stars

                  As one of a handful of Shakespeare’s “problem plays”, All’s Well That Ends Well, has been consigned to the back streets of the Bard’s body of work. However, Shakespeare in the Squares current production breathes a new lease of life into this lesser-known play.

                  It tells the story of Helena (Kalifa Taylor), a low born woman, in love with French gentry Bertram (Jack Ward). After curing the King (Claire-Monique Martin) of an illness, he promises Helena she will be married to Bertram. Unfortunately, Bertram’s lack of attraction to Helena causes him to escape to Italy to fight in a war, with his trusty compatriot Parolles (Toby Cordon). Through tricks and turns, she manages to obtain his family ring, and fools Bertram to impregnate her, ultimately winning his love in the end. Yes…. I know…. The story is wild, but don’t let that put you off, it’s just silly fun.


All's Well That Ends Well Brochure

Taylor’s portrayal of the desperate, love-stricken Helena made you root for her despite knowing the despicable lengths she would go. Similarly, Ward’s airheaded yob should be contemptable, yet the audience found itself laughing along with (and at) him. The whole company made the production an interactive family affair, with the highlight being Cordon’s jester-like Parolles, winking, toying and laughing with the crowd. Children were brought up to assume the roles of the cast’s children, and one unsuspecting punter thrust into a red opera wig & glasses to portray Lafew’s (Lee Drage) unfortunate looking daughter. Moments like this were met with roars of laughter from the crowd, with a few parents smattered around looking mightily impressed with their children.


Stage setting

Despite the fun and frivolity, it wasn’t a faultless evening. There were two main issues –the story itself and the park setting. The story is not fixable, but it’s hilarious, surreal and the cast tell it with full Shakespearean gusto. As with a lot of The Bard, it’s best to read the synopsis beforehand and/or watch a summary. Secondly, as is the nature with outdoor performance, there are cars, pedestrians and Paraquets persistently making a racket in the background. While the principal cast (special commendation to Kalifa Taylor) projected to the back of the crowd with ease, a few needed to speak up – some spoke as if forgetting this is absurd Shakespeare, not a nuanced mic’d performance.

                 

This production of All’s Well That Ends Well is part of the Shakespeare in the Squares Summer Tour, now in its seventh season (with Dame Judi Dench as their patron, so you know it's good). Travelling throughout London via 25 different squares, over 31 days. Each production given a distinctly unique element as it familiarises itself to its novel location. My production, at Connaught Square, was staged simply: a trellis, swathes of bunting, and a lovers seat being the only staging which nestled amongst the lush greenery. This simplicity meant the surroundings did most of the talking. Surrounded by stunning foliage, impressive Georgian terraces lit by Victorian streetlights – all of which lent an air of traditional English fete which only intensified the ambiance.

Lush garden setting

                  Ultimately, this absurd Shakespearean play, performed in a lush, gorgeous garden setting, by a talented cast, was a fun and wholesome evening. It brought together families and friends, many of whom arrived early to host pre-show picnics and stayed for post-show drinks after. I wholeheartedly recommend you do the same. Bring a picnic blanket, a bottle of wine, some friends and family – particularly any budding little actors who would enjoy a call to the stage.


                  Shakespeare in the Squares will be touring throughout London with performances running until Saturday 15th June, tickets available at https://shakespeareinthesquares.co.uk and costing only £30



Here is a video of last years summer tour of The Tempest.


Please note, i was kindly invited as a PR invite to the above production.

                 

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