All’s Well That Ends Well

A commoner marrying a prince. If Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well doesn’t exactly mirror the story of our recent royal nuptials, it comes close.
Not that I’m suggesting that our Wills resembles Shakespeare’s spoilt, immature anit-hero, Bertram who rejecting the resourceful `commoner’, Helena bounces off to war only to finally surrender to life’s lesson: that you can run but you can’t always hide from a determined woman. Indeed for some Helena’s status remains problematic and calculating in the way she chases after Bertram and wins him by trickery.
Shakespeare used all manner of sources for his All’s Well (1602), one of the `problem’ plays that sits between Hamlet and Troilus and Cressida as one of the later, darker comedies. The text is strewn with sauciness possibly inspired by one of the stories of Boccaccio’s Decameron and hums with mythic folk tales.
`Problem’ though seems a strange description. Maybe it lies in the ambiguity of its ending (though no more so than, say, Measure for Measure).
More perhaps, it is considered problem because of the riddle it its title. All’s Well that Ends Well? The end justifies the means? Marriage between two people whose journey to wedlock has been anything but smooth and involved disdain, rejection, bed tricks, talismanic rings and mysterious healing powers.
John Dove’s production warm, Restoration coloured production however, in keeping with the general bonhomie atmosphere of the Globe foregoes doubtful resolution for the `feel good factor’. Ellie Piercy (Helena) and Sam Crane’s thoughtful, revisionist Bertram seem unquestionably well paired whilst Sam Cox’s King of France is wreathed in sunny, fairy tale smiles.
Add in the traditional Globe knees-up and you realise it’s no wonder the Globe continues to defy all auguries and survive without public subsidy.
Janie Dee, in her Globe debut makes a compassionate Countess de Roussillon and there is the usual strong support from among others Michael Bertenshaw, James Garnon (the unforgettable, posturing King James V1 of Anne Boleyn reprising that role later in the season), Colin Hurley, Peter Hamilton Dyer, Sophie Duval and Naomi Branston. Together they are forming themselves, recognisably, into a `Globe’ company.
A happy start to Dominic Dromgoole’s new season.