Shakespeare via Fleetwood Mac, Patti Smith and Judy Collins? All’s Well That Ends Well works well at the Jermyn Street Theatre
“The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together”
Finally managed to get to the Jermyn Street Theatre to see All’s Well That Ends Well, a co-production with Guildford Shakespeare Company, after director Tom Littler spoke so passionately about it to me. And I’m glad I did too, as it is a rather wonderfully inventive and musical interpretation of the play that makes it sing in a new way, albeit with a careworn air of Joni Mitchell.
Pushed into a (near-)contemporary setting and presented almost as a memory play by Hannah Morrish’s Helena, handing out keepsakes as props. The plot isn’t one of Shakespeare’s strongest, as Helena tries to inveigle her way into the affections of the higher-born Count Bertram, but suggesting it as a recollection of the folly of (younger) love, I bought this take on it.
Stripped down to a company of six, with two accomplished pianists in their number (Stefan Bednarczyk and Ceri-Lyn Cissone), there’s a great sense of play here which lends itself to the almost fantastical, fairy-tale nature of the story as it winds around miracle cures, bed-tricks and comedy accents. Miranda Foster multi-roles particularly well as a trio of memorable women.
And there’s something intriguing about the relationship that is forged between Helena and Gavin Fowler’s Bertram, rooted in genuine affection from the start and latterly with a growing appeal as maturity finally kicks in. Nell Irish and Anett Black’s boxed-up design has its own interest too and the use of such iconic music is cleverly woven through, as recorded sound blends into live piano to generate its own kind of magic.