This was the first of the Young People’s Shakespeare series, of which there are five over the next fortnight- one off performances, heavily cut, each done by a different UK drama school.
It’s a harsh deal for ‘All’s Well’ to only get an hour and fifteen minutes single performance when it’s a relatively little-performed play anyway, but that said it’s not one of the best plays, and its subject matter lends itself well to a young cast.
This production was by the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and was very minimal- a few stools providing the only set, no sound or music except for a drum and only a couple of wash changes for the lighting. This was all about the performances.
The highlight was Hank Ostendorf’s suitably bitter and manic Parolles, who gave a very funny performance culminating in him clutching an audience member’s leg while his ‘torturers’ dragged him away. The Scottish Messenger, into whom many of the minor parts were absorbed, was also very good, leading the key songs (mostly Scottish folk) and always entertaining.
The mood of the main plot was relatively solemn, Helena in particular almost never smiling. The awkwardness of Helena and Bertram’s initial engagement was particularly good, and the side-stories of the Countess’ romance with Lafew and Diana’s misguided love for Bertram even after his true nature was revealed were both quite touching.
The editing of the text was quite impressive, the only notable omission being Lavatch the clown- but yet the action was compressed into an hour and a quarter. The result was a very clear and direct interpretation of the text, definitely a very accessible performance for schools and people unfamiliar with the play.