Tag Archives: Tom Littler

All’s Well That Ends Well

★★★★

Jermyn Street Theatre

All’s Well That Ends Well

All’s Well That Ends Well

Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 8th November 2019

★★★★

 

“Ceri-Lyn Cissone steals the comedic limelight with her natural gift and assorted accents”

 

“All’s Well That Ends Well” has always been one of Shakespeare’s least performed works. Classified as one of his ‘problem plays’ it shifts between comedy, fantasy and psychological drama. The evidence that Shakespeare intended it to be a comedy is in the happy ending, as the title would suggest. Criticised as being a rather contrived and truncated conclusion, Tom Littler’s inventive production at the Jermyn Street Theatre adds a subtle twist that instils a touch of much needed pathos.

The action is transposed to 1970s London, Paris and Florence. When his Bertram’s father dies, he rejects his friends, abandons his mother, and flees his childhood home. But the orphaned Helena, in love with him since childhood, refuses to give up hope. Following in her father’s footsteps, she becomes a doctor, saves a monarch’s life, and crosses half of Europe in the passionate pursuit of her happiness.

This is an intimate production, scaled down to a cast of six. The setting is evoked more by the soundtrack than Neil Irish and Anett Black’s slightly baffling set design. Predominated by Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ album from the mid seventies, the music is intercut with live piano accompaniment – a leitmotif echoing the iconic riffs of the recorded music. Stefan Bednarczyk and Ceri-Lyn Cissone duet and duel on a pair of upright pianos, seamlessly weaving in and out of the action. Bednarczyk’s arrangements underscore not just the dialogue but the emotional core of the characters that is often lost in the delivery.

The crux is persuading the audience why Helena should be so in love with the outwardly unloveable Bertram. Gavin Fowler shows us a chink in the armour of his roguish indifference to Helena that sheds a ray of hope. We’re not sure that Helena sees this, but her dogged determination to bag her man is matched by Hannah Morrish’s solid performance. Multi-rolling Miranda Foster delivers the most emotional punch as Helena’s newly widowed mother and the ailing Queen (normally a king) of France. Cured from her illness by Helena, Foster is like a starry-eyed convert before reclaiming her steely grasp on the proceedings.

But all in all, much of the musicality of Shakespeare’s language is missing, and the rhythm often fails to ignite the frequent tongue-twisters and tricks of the dialogue. The plot is slight so it’s all in the text which doesn’t always match the magic created by the musical atmosphere.

But what does shine is the comedy, and the torchbearers are the peripheral characters. Robert Mountford’s swaggering Parolles is a gust of fresh air as he relishes his cowardly downfall, while Ceri-Lyn Cissone steals the comedic limelight with her natural gift and assorted accents.

With themes of social mobility, deception and sexual misconduct that are still relevant today, this is a play that mixes dark fairytale with light humour; but, despite moments of magic, the peaks and troughs are never fully reached.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Matt Pereira

 


All’s Well That Ends Well

Jermyn Street Theatre until 30th November 2019

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Agnes Colander: An Attempt At Life | ★★★★ | February 2019
Mary’s Babies | ★★★ | March 2019
Creditors | ★★★★ | April 2019
Miss Julie | ★★★ | April 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (A) | ★★★ | June 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (B) | ★★★ | June 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (C) | ★★★★ | June 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (D) | ★★ | June 2019
For Services Rendered | ★★★★★ | September 2019
The Ice Cream Boys | ★★★★ | October 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

For Services Rendered

★★★★★

Jermyn Street Theatre

For Services Rendered

For Services Rendered

Jermyn Street Theatre

Reviewed – 6th September 2019

★★★★★

 

“A deliciously haunting production from a plucky and dedicated theatre”

 

It’s late summer, a stifling atmosphere pervades the Kentish home of the Ardsley family, all of whom are in some way affected by the ending of the Great War. Whether by injury, hasty marriage, stagnating economy or the stultifying culture of abandonment dressed up as just getting on with things, each face a future of anxiety and diminishment. Only the youngest, Lois, seems to have escape routes, though none without penalty.

Somerset Maugham’s angry and sullenly anti-war work, premiered in 1932, was not deemed a huge success, despite or because of its scathing lines satirising attitudes to returning combatants. Over time the drama’s unblinking appraisal of human motivations led to more literary critiques and a smattering of recent revivals. Opening the Jermyn Street Theatre’s Memories Season, at a time of when England is again wracked by change and the younger generation must again face shrinking horizons to a chorus of entreaties to be optimistic, it fits like a well-made suit, though modern parallels are thankfully not forced.

The set by Louie Whitemore establishes a world of tennis and tea on the lawn very much as the writer intended and, as the action ensues, Emily Stuart’s beautifully tailored period costumes underline the sense of a moment in time, perfectly preserved. Diane Fletcher as the weary matriarch, Charlotte, portrays with precision the slow acceptance that nothing seems to matter anymore; every glance and micro-expression accumulating dejection.

The four Ardsley children all have different reasons to feel frustrated in their pursuit of a meaningful life and after the interval the masterful writing chillingly depicts how human nature turns venal as a consequence of being starved of options. All performances do their bit for the cause. Richard Keightley is particularly unerring in his performance of the war-blinded, still fragile but chipper Sydney Ardsley, but no character is overplayed, which only makes their suffocating predicament more so. Even the lower class, drunken oaf, Howard played by Burt Caesar restrains his boorishness, slurping beer in noisy measured gulps, advancing on young Lois in the same methodical way, using the sinister wartime logic of enjoying life while you can, alarmingly transposed to peace time. Sally Cheng as Lois, Rachel Pickup as Eva Ardsley and Jotham Annan as Collie Stratton follow suit, politely unravelling their tragic prospects at the same rate with varying degrees of brittle cheerfulness.

Direction by the theatre’s Artistic Director Tom Littler is subtle, possibly unadventurous, but in doing so, he allows the mounting frustration to moulder into angst and finally to a very English version of hysteria, all at an insidiously clockwork pace, marked by distant church clock chimes, refilled whisky and sodas, tea and the dropping apples and rose heads. We feel we are watching England decline before us in real time. A deliciously haunting production from a plucky and dedicated theatre celebrating its 25th anniversary.

 

Reviewed by Dominic Gettins

Photography by Robert Workman

 


For Services Rendered

Jermyn Street Theatre until 5th October

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Burke & Hare | ★★★★ | November 2018
Original Death Rabbit | ★★★★★ | January 2019
Agnes Colander: An Attempt At Life | ★★★★ | February 2019
Mary’s Babies | ★★★ | March 2019
Creditors | ★★★★ | April 2019
Miss Julie | ★★★ | April 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (A) | ★★★ | June 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (B) | ★★★ | June 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (C) | ★★★★ | June 2019
Pictures Of Dorian Gray (D) | ★★ | June 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews