All's Well That Ends As You Like It: A Lamentable Comedie and Hysterickal Tragedie, by William Shakefpeare

Sun 20th – Sat 26th August 2017

reviews

Helena Snider

at 09:58 on 21st Aug 2017

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‘All's well that ends as you like it’ features the first ever performance of a ‘lost’ Shakespearian 'masterpiece'. This is a show about a doomed amateur production — namely, an invented Shakespeare play. The actors, director, and tech crew are all played by the actual cast. The overall level of gusto, enthusiasm and sense of fun was noticeable, but the play failed, somewhat inevitably, to live up to its original source material.

This play, performed by Vole productions, was written after “too much boring academic study of ridiculously OTT revenge tragedies”. Though the comedy veered into something that seemed more like pantomime at times, I did note its true lack of pretentiousness. There is no doubt that those at the Fringe who are sick of the overwhelming number of over earnest student theatre and avant-garde productions will appreciate the funny self-awareness of ‘All's well’.

That being said, this is not simply a pantomime-show with nothing to do with its original source. Rather, the audience learns just enough about 'All's well that ends well' and 'As you like it' to find the usual Shakespearean elements, such as infidelity, ghosts, nunneries, duels. Moreover, it is spoken in well-written iambic pentameter.

As things start to go wrong, the team are forced to overcome death, accidents, slip-ups and mess-ups and pull together the elusive happy ending mentioned in the title.

There were nonetheless moments that were genuinely moving. When the ghost of Ambrosia’s father delivers her final judgement, we are left with a deep sense of pathos. That the production is being performed now, but is set in the 17th century with Shakespearean-sounding language, really serves to highlight the universality of Shakespeare’s themes.

The set was sparse, which helped to emphasise the ‘meta’ aspects of the play, enabling a sense of confusion as to what was ‘onstage’ and what was ‘off’; the pulling out of the tech guy from the lighting room added to this blurring of lines.

All in all, the show is likely to appeal to those with a fondness of slap-stick humour, fans of Shakespeare and those wiling to put up with a level of clumsiness inevitable in amateur dramatics. It is nonetheless a worthy watch.

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Amaris Proctor

at 13:57 on 21st Aug 2017

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The hand of contempt guides this irreverent piece of new writing, which strives to tear Shakespeare down from the sanctimonious pedestal on which bardophilia has perched him. This engenders a chiefly engaging viewing experience, through a smidgen of smugness can occasionally be detected.

This is a truly blasphemous postmodern production, as you might guess from the muddled title. The period costumes and props are all too soon ruffled to make way for a tide of anachronism which would have Harold Bloom tearing his hair out. The language descends from iambic pentameter into common vernacular, and sprite suddenly refers to a soft drink as well as a fairy. High and low culture bleed together in this fractured patchwork of a piece, where broadway and pantomime can be shunted alongside the most canonical of writers. While 2016 was filled with commemorations of Shakespeare’s death, this play is actually keen to embrace the notion of the ‘Death of the Author’.

On a comedic level the play certainly has strengths. The well-paced momentum of the farce is testament to how skilfully the confusion is choreographed. The physical comedy derived from corpses and uncomfortably protracted smooches is energetically executed. This is thickly layered with an abundance of polished jokes, which get darker as the comedy progresses.

The acting was also generally strong, with an admirable sense of commitment discernible across the board. The combative chemistry amongst the cast served them well as the tension amplified throughout the play. Jack Blackburn who played Chris the overwrought ‘director’ was distinctly good at bringing an urgency to the role, embracing the melodrama of the second half.

However, regardless of the finesse of director Alex Brinkman-Young in creating such an accomplished show, it’s possible that its subject matter may provoke an eye roll or two. Theatre about theatre will always be open to accusations of navel gazing. While it pokes fun at its own metatheatricality, one is left wondering if that’s simply a smokescreen for a very real infatuation with the conceit ‘All the world’s a stage’. It’s spoofing of directing, stage managing, and technical directing can come off as slightly self-indulgent. While the way it challenges the audience’s willingness to suspend their disbelief is interesting, the play has a tendency to traipse into academic territory. When it gets too preoccupied with ideas about genre it seems to get wrapped up with a sense of its own cleverness.

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