A sweet, beguiling Shakespearean romance is skilfully reimagined against the backdrop of the Second World War in Youth Action Theatre (YAT)’s appealing production of All’s Well That Ends Well.
This is a production that will appeal to Shakespeare buffs and novices alike.
YAT is a much admired, reputable theatre company that offers opportunities for young people to perfect their craft through onstage performance. Now in its 45th year, the company has produced over 130 major productions and can count The Hobbit’s Martin Freeman amongst their past members.
All’s Well remains one of the Elizabethan bard’s less popular and less conventional plays, called a ‘problem play’ by critics due to its tendency to subvert the expectations of typical Shakespearean comedy. The plot follows lowly born Helena, the ward of the Countess of Roussillon, who falls in love with the Countess’ son, Bertram. Whilst the King of France is in favour of a potential marriage between the two, Bertram remains firmly disinterested and so Helena must use her wit and wiles to ensure a happy ending for them both.
YAT has cleverly abridged Shakespeare’s original text into a lively one-hour show. Vivacious performances highlight the play’s romantic and comedic elements, whilst the play’s tragicomic undertones are emphasised by the wartime setting.
The production deserves praise for expertly evoking the feel of the 1940s. Costume designers Sarah Dowd and Elizabeth Lattimore have created gorgeous, well-considered costumes, Emma Woodley’s hair design is spot on and the production makes brilliant use of the period’s music. This twentieth-century realism is juxtaposed with the sensation of a more traditional Shakespeare performance thanks to the set design, which features attractive, ethereal flower arches at both ends of the stage.
These well-considered effects ground the production with a sense of professionalism, which is accentuated further by the young actors’ terrific performances.
As Helena, Sarah Collins-Walters is wonderfully expressive, imbuing the lines with emotion, sensitivity and conviction. Josh Clarke’s Bertram is every bit the proud yet immature soldier, whilst Lucy Hanneghan’s hilarious and hysterical countess is a real highlight. The combination of such a talented young cast and top direction by Elizabeth Lattimore and Sarah Dowd ensures every line is instilled with meaning. This is a production that will appeal to Shakespeare buffs and novices alike.
Fun and light-hearted, yet with just enough pathos and trepidation, YAT’s All’s Well That Ends Well is a fantastic reimagining of one of Shakespeare’s lesser known works and well worth a watch.