All's Well That Ends Well (1997): Oxford Stage Company
PrAll's Well That Ends Well (1997)
PRINCIPAL CAST: Jeff Diamond (King of France); Michael Greco (Parolles); Emil Marwa (Bertram); Madlena Nedeva (Countess of Roussillon); Rachel Pickup (Helena).
This was a touring production, so most dates are unknown but it played at the Oxford Playhouse from 11 - 23 August 1997.
"Irina Brook directs this Oxford Stage Company production as a performance by a local travelling troupe in a North African country. I do not see what this contributes to the play, except colourful staging and exotic music. Indeed, Helena's conduct, both at the French court and in her pursuit of Bertram, would be unthinkable in an Islamic country. In a play about social rank, it seems odd, too, that Bertram, before he leaves for Paris, should so affectionately embrace the humbly born Helena whom he looks down on." ~ Sunday Times, 5 October 1997
"Brook decides to set the play in an African market. Traders display wooden toys, hardware, leather goods, and into this busy world two white women wander, looking for souvenirs. Merriment ensues. Then one trader suggests they tell a story, like Mickey Rooney in the movies: right here! And off we go. Africa supplies too little to justify its presence. There is drumming and a metal bowl struck sonorously with a rod. Helena's miracle cure is shown in shadow play behind a sheet. Magical arm-waving seems to be what does the trick, and Rachel Pickup's arms are remarkably elegant." ~ Jeremy Kingston, "Problem left unsolved", The Times, 13 August 1997
"Irina Brook's multi-cultural production of All's Well That Ends Well is wonderfully fresh and captivating. There have been complaints that her chosen format makes a difficult play even more complicated. Proceedings begin in a bustling African marketplace full of street-traders crying up their wares, ethnic drummers and the odd European tourist. A wicker basket is unpacked, costumes are wafted around and one man pops a tambourine on his head and instantly becomes the King of France. In this spontaneous, let's-do-the-show-right-here manner, the group begins to act out the story of Shakespeare's play. When not performing, the actors sit around the side watching, swigging from waterbottles and heightening certain episodes with a percussive accompaniment. Does adding a framing locale to an already geographically restless play cause confusion? Not, I can only report, to my 10-year-old guest, who had no problem cottoning on to the production's sometimes witty, sometimes haunting shorthand, and who was engrossed and enchanted by the piece....Emile Marwa's Bertram, more naive boy than peevish cad, looks as though he may well ripen under Helena's rays. The last time OSC mounted a multi-cultural Shakespeare, with Alexandru Darie's Much Ado, it was an unholy hodge-podge: if, to the strains of a sitar, an Eskimo had wandered on shaking a shillelagh, you would not have been surprised. Here, by contrast, the wildly varying styles tend to capture and intensify the spirit of their particular strand - from the refreshing, earthy directness of the African Widow and Diana (Anni Domingo, Clara Onyemere) to Michael Greco's strutting, would-be Latin lover of a Parolles, who gabbles his treacheries at hilarious top speed. Well worth catching on its national tour, this is a production that winningly establishes its own kind of imaginative integrity." ~ Paul Taylor, Independent, 21 August 1997