Fringe World Perth 2012

Fringe spin on a classic in All’s Well that Ends Well

0 Comments 18 February 2012

All’s Well that Ends Well is a romantic comedy where the couple shouldn’t be together and their eventual reconciliation strikes a somewhat disquieting note.

The Fringe World production from local theater company North Sea Boat Terminals is a spirited and ambitious take on one of Shakespeare’s problem plays.

The small cast of young Perth actors have a big task at hand, all playing multiple characters and they rise to the occasion.

Caris Eves is particularly good as Helena, imbuing the character with strength even as she single-mindedly pursues a romantic partner who’s clearly a jackass. Nick Pages-Oliver does good work as the aforementioned jackass Bertram, though he over-eggs it on his dual role of The Widow making the comic character tiresome rather than amusing.

Brendan Polain is the Minstrel narrator as well as playing various side characters. He also impresses both with his musical abilities and his ability to differentiate the various characters he plays.

There’s a lot of imagination shown in the production’s design. The abundance of children’s toys throughout the set and childlike costumes smartly underscores the lead characters’ immaturity.

The King and Countess of Rousillon are both portrayed by animated projections with their lines prerecorded. It’s an inventive method of presenting the play’s authority figures and the cast plays off the animated characters well. The occasional pre-recorded soliloquy does drag though. It’s a pity that a live actor doesn’t play the Countess, one of Shakespeare’s best female roles.

The choice to symbolise the virginal Diana and her mother The Widow as plastic teapots is odd, though Eves somehow makes a swaying teapot strangely seductive.

The music and sound design is strong. One issue was that the musical accompaniment sometimes drowned out the dialogue. The sound design was problematic for Helena’s soliloquy right before the act-break where the loud gunfire and over-the-top antics of the other actors takes away from an important character moment.

The abridged text used does a fine job maintaining narrative coherence throughout the play and the actors seem very comfortable speaking Shakespearean verse.

The final scene, with it’s subdued look at married life implies where the production stands on the play’s Bertram problem which has perplexed Shakespeare scholars for decades.

All’s Well That Ends Well is an exciting and inventive take on Shakespeare’s classic. The ambition shown by the cast and crew suggests that there will be interesting work to come from the young company and director Sarah McKellar.

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