‘All’s well that ends well’ by William Shakespeare, has been transformed by the team at North Sea Boat Terminals theatre group. Any team that can think of such a fabulous name for their troupe has not surprisingly produced a novel experience.
Historically this 1604 play, a strange blend of comedy and tragedy, seems to carry with it all the bad luck of ‘the Scottish play’, with the part of Helena being most susceptible to bad fortune and illness.
This 80-minute production, with no interval, is showing at The Old Mill Theatre, Mends Street, South Perth each night of the week at 8.00 pm until Sunday 29th October. There is an additional matinee performance on Sunday at 2.00 pm.
Beautiful Helena (Caris Eves), an orphaned daughter of a physician, is made ward of the Countess of Rousillon (animated cartoon, voiced by Jenny McCann). However, being of such low birth, Helena’s love for the Countess’s son, Count Bertram (Nick Pages-Oliver), can never become a reality.
However, while Bertram is working for the King of France (animated cartoon voiced by Kingsley Judd), his majesty is struck down with a fistula (an unpleasant duct, usually from the lower gut to the outer skin). Seeing her chance, and using her father’s documented skills, Helena has Lafeu (Brendan Polain) introduced her to the King, whom she cures? As a reward the King gives her a ring and offers her anything she wants, and naturally Helena asks for Bertram’s hand in marriage.
Being forced into marrying Helena, despite her immense beauty, refuse to consummate the marriage. Instead her new husband joins the Duke of Florence’s army. Whilst away, Bertram writes to Helena advising her that unless she can get the signet ring from his finger, and become pregnant to him – a highly unlike situation – she will never be his ‘real’ wife.
Encouraged by her caring mother-in-law, the Countess, Helena accepts the challenge and leaves for Florence, where she catches her husband seducing a young girl, Diana (Caris Eves).
However Diana is a virgin, and despite getting Bertram’s ring as a symbol of his sincerity, wants to stay ‘unsullied’. Helena talks Diana’s widowed mother into letting her sleep in Bertram’s bed that night, where she makes love to her husband. After the night of passion, her husband is still unaware it was Helena.
In order to get her husband home from the war, Diana starts a rumour that she has died – but will this trick work?
Not only has the director, Sarah McKellar, and her assistant director Matt Longman, riskily embarked upon a ground-breaking, fast moving contemporary version of this famous play, but she has successfully tried many different genres to delight an audience, many of whom may not have seen this rarely performed play.
The team have bravely hired the theatre for a week, to present to the public something very new. This version is zany and awash with symbolism. Right from the beginning, when we see Helena and Bertram as children playing on their hobbyhorses, which later become – dare I say cockhorses? - with a very different role to play. I laughed out loud at the use found for the plastic spoon from the children’s tea set.
Toy soldiers portray the Duke of Florence’s army. The Countess and the King are depicted by beautifully drawn, loveable animations (Michael Lombardi - excellent), but this is then made more interesting by having the pictorial movements linked to the live actors in a way similar to Mary Poppins and the penguins. Brendan Polain’s original music was bright and added a break from the rich dialogue. The set is simple black drapes, the lighting basic and the costumes contemporary.
The script has been reduced from three hours to one, but the dialogue is still mainly that of the Bard, with few funny lines added.
The performance I saw was the first of the two previews. Sadly the group are having trouble finding a lighting operator for this show, so the technical side was a little ropey as the stand-in did his best for the first time, however I am sure if they find someone acquainted with the Old Mill desk then the show will receive the teching it merits and the whole effect will lift.
Plenty of great ideas and lateral thinking in the production, let’s hope it receives the support it deserves. Innovation must be encouraged.
Harbour Theatre, Fremantle's only and original community theatre for 50 years,
is proud to present for our second production for our Golden Jubilee Year,