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Page last updated: 26/09/2013 Masque Theatre © 2013

All's Well That Ends Well
by William Shakespeare

Thu 25 July - Sat 3 August 2013
at 7.30pm (excluding Sun 28 July)

In the open air in the courtyard of Abington Park Museum, Northampton Map >

Production No. 398

More images from All's Well That Ends Well

Ursula Wright, director

A fairy-tale comedy of true love, good medicine and bad behaviour.

The year is 1660. Civil war in England is over, Charles II has been restored to the throne and the theatre, forbidden under the Commonwealth, is again flourishing. For the first time, women are allowed to perform on stage.

Shakespeare’s grand-daughter and only surviving relative Elizabeth has married John Bernard and is living at Abington Manor in Northamptonshire. To celebrate these national events, she has invited a travelling theatre group to perform one of her grandfather’s plays – her personal favourite All’s Well That Ends Well

Helena, a poor orphan, is secretly in love with Bertram, a handsome young nobleman, the son of her guardian the Countess of Rossillion. But to win his hand in marriage there are seemingly impossible tasks to perform. Bertram has left home, summoned to Paris by the dying King of France; later he travels to Italy, to fight in the Tuscan wars, egged on by his flamboyant and unreliable companion Parolles. Helena must use all her skills, her inherited medical knowledge and exceptional courage and resourcefulness, to win the man she loves.

But at what cost?

This most modern and intriguing of Shakespeare’s comedies, with its blend of fairy-tale plot and colourful yet realistic characters, will be performed in the very place where his grand-daughter lived and died. It brings to a close the two-year 80th Anniversary Season of Masque Theatre and is the perfect entertainment for a summer evening.

The production was directed by Ursula Wright (who also directed the Masque 80th Anniversary Gala performance at the Royal Theatre in October 2012). Other Masque Theatre productions by Ursula include Dancing at Lughnasa (2011), Oh What a Lovely War (2007) and A Christmas Carol (2004). Between 1998 and 2011, Ursula was the director of Masque Youth Theatre.


Cast & Crew

Countess of Rossillion April Pardoe
Lewis Marks
Helena Verity Johnson
Parolles Tom Morath
Rinaldo Tim Page
Servants to the Countess Clare Balbi, Rosie Chapman
King of France Richard Walker
Lord Lafew Owen Warr
First Lord Dumaine Peter Collins
Second Lord Dumaine Alistair Way
Other young Lords James Applegate, Mark Bentley, Mark Farey, John Goodman, Tom Jordan, Peter Robinson
Court Gentleman Tony Janney
Doctor David Dunkley
Duke of Florence Rob Kendall
Widow Capilet Jerry Delaney
Diana Hannah Burt
Marianna Ingrid Heymann
Interpreter Mark Bentley
Soldiers James Applegate, Mark Bentley, Mark Farey, John Goodman, Tom Jordan, Peter Robinson
Florentines Clare Balbi, Rosie Chapman, David Dunkley, Wendy Dunkley, Sue Howes, Lucy Morgan
Dame Elizabeth Bernard Anita Gayton

Guitar/Mandolin Chris Fordham
Violin Michael Bowie
Percussion Josh Judd

Director Ursula Wright
Composer and Musical Director Chris Fordham
Choreographer Mary O'Brien
Stage Manager Jo Molyneux
Deputy Stage Manager Bernadette Wood
Assistant Stage Managers Laura Haynes, Jen Kenny
Prompter Alex Rex
Wardrobe Mistresses Clare Brittain, Wendy Dunkley
Costumes The Works
Additional costumes made by Dorothy Granger, Pam Mann, Amy Strewart
Hair and makeup Sidonie McDowell
Set Design Rebecca Fey
Set Construction Derek Banyard, Mark Mortimer, Geoff Russell
Lighting The Works
Box Office Denise Swann, Masque Theatre members
Front of House Tamsyn Payne, Emily Bale, Masque Theatre members
Poster and Programme Design Tamsyn Payne
Photography Joe Brown, Tom Jordan

A scene from All's Well That Ends Well

The King of France and Helena de Narbon. Photo by Joe Brown

Philip Welsh

This is not a comedy I knew well, having seen it once before and read it as part of my college course over 40 years ago. But I have to say I was thoroughly engaged from the moment the unobtrusive but well arranged and lyrical music began… and Emily Riley tried to sell me an orange!

I was really grateful for the programme notes which provided the essential information about the locations of each scene and how everyone came to be there. In all other respects, the careful plot development, excellent characterisations, and impressive attention to detail, made this a relatively easy piece to follow.

Inevitably with Shakespeare and with large casts, one of the major challenges for a director is getting all the players to move, stand and speak the lines with the same style of delivery. I often find myself listening to the words but watching those actors on stage who are not the centre of attention. People often either stop acting, or over-act, either of which reminds the audience that they are sitting on hard plastic chairs watching a play. None of that here!

I was on the front row and I really hope that all of this reached people further back.

Amongst the many pleasurable moments came David Dunkley’s outraged Doctor when Helena embarks on curing the King where he has manifestly failed; Clare Balbi and Rosie Chapman’s gossiping servants only paying attention when forced to; and some inspired comic moments from Ingrid Heymann, Rob Kendall and Tim Page amongst others - often without speaking a word!

With a cast and crew of well over 30 people, it isn’t possible to mention everyone. But this was teamwork at its very best. The differences in style were there but were minimal. Compared to the principal characters, Lucy Morgan and Sue Howes, for instance, were on stage for a relatively brief time. But they, and almost everyone else, demonstrated that most difficult skill of acting without appearing to do so. There was not a moment that I caught, where a physical or facial reaction was missed, or looked anything other than spontaneous…and that is not easy to achieve, let alone sustain.

All the young Lords in Paris and, later, the soldiers in Florence were enjoyable performances, as were those of all the principals I have not had space to mention.

I must single out six actors, however.

It was difficult to believe that anyone in their right mind would reject Verity Johnson’s Helena as a potential bride! Perhaps the class difference between her and Lewis Marks’ Bertram (which was the principle reason) needed a greater emphasis. But both gave lovely, intelligent life to their roles.

Owen Warr is almost the definition of a “character actor”. Compelling to watch and listen to! I liked his Lord Lafew a lot!

Tom Morath was a lot of fun! Often Shakespeare’s comic “loveable rogues” are difficult to pull off, as the audience doesn’t always respond to the language. There was no way Tom’s performance was going to let that happen!

Hannah Burt, new to the Masque, is something of a find! Diana is, perhaps, one of the least well explained roles in the play - necessary for the subterfuge but possibly a bit superfluous after it has been achieved. In Hannah’s hands, I understood the character for the first time and really warmed to her.

And Richard Walker’s King! I believed he was on his last legs at the start. I wanted to tell him how much better he looked when the potion worked! I believed him when he said he was angry. I wanted to punch Bertram on the nose on his behalf when Bertram defied him. I wanted to explain to him when he didn’t understand about the ring. I smiled a lot when he was happy. I wanted to shake his hand when it was proved that “all’s well that ends well”. It takes a very good actor to get me involved to that extent. He convinced me he was hearing everything that was said to him for the very first time! What an excellent performance!

As a technician, I always say that if the technicals are noticeable they have got it wrong. The night I watched was the second performance of the run. No prompts (which shows a prompt who has that really important ability to know when not to) and a continuity from scene to scene which is hard to achieve but essential if you don’t want to give the audience time to think about those seats! Great costumes, terrific hairstyles and convincing props (apart from the paper the letters were written on and that shoulder bag…but that really is being picky!)

And finally, a few words about the Director, Ursula Wright! Being the conceited, self-opinionated old fart that I am, I all too often sit through plays and musicals thinking, “I wouldn’t have done it like that!” I watched All’s Well That Ends Well,” either completely absorbed in the action, or thinking, “My word that’s clever,” or “I would never have thought of that!”

Some genuinely inspired moment’s of direction and hugely impressive attention to the detail of individual‘s performances, made this one production that just might get me adding to the list of plays that I like a lot!