Theatre | A truly happy ending?

MODERN LOVE: All's Well That Ends Well is unique among the bard's plays for its contemporary relationships and number of female characters.
MODERN LOVE: All's Well That Ends Well is unique among the bard's plays for its contemporary relationships and number of female characters.

AT the end of Shakespeare’s comedy All’s Well That Ends Well audiences often find themselves discussing whether the story has indeed ended well for some of the characters.

Many people, however, see the relationships of the characters and their behaviour as among the most contemporary in the Bard’s light-hearted plays. And it certainly has attracted Maitland Repertory’s Reamus Youth Theatre, choosing it as the Shakespeare play they most wanted to stage in 2018.

All’s Well That Ends Well will be staged at Maitland Repertory Theatre, giving theatregoers the chance to see one of Shakespeare’s least-staged plays. It is also noteworthy for having a large number of female characters, something that was rare in the male-dominated theatre world of Shakespeare’s time.

The story’s central figures are Bertram, a young self-absorbed French nobleman who wants to prove his worth by such actions as leading troops into battle, and Helena, the daughter of a renowned physician who has just died.

Helena is attracted to Bertram, but he ignores her. When he heads to Paris to try to upgrade his status, Helena follows him and uses the medical skills her father showed her to cure the King, who is suffering from a serious illness. That leads to a surprise royal decision.

Director, Joanne McAndrews, notes that the play examines whether the ends justify the means, and while Helena is an honourable person, Bertram is influenced by blustering villain, Parolles, who boastfully pretends to be a warrior and nobleman.

Alex Simpson, who plays Parolles, sees him as a very flamboyant manipulator and performer.

“He’s very good at talking and putting the right words to those he’s addressing.”

James Wonderley, cast as Bertram, notes that he is doing his best to get ahead.

“He’s young and a bit dumb but means well,” he said.

“His dad has just died and that has put him in a difficult situation. He and Helena have grown up together and he’s fond of her, but it’s probably never entered his head that she is attracted to him.”

The show’s Helena, Melissa Hickey, sees her as very lovestruck and naive.

“Every decision she makes revolves around how that would affect Bertram – and she’s very determined to get her way and overcome the obstacles in her path,” she said.

Other cast members include James McCaffrey, Isabelle Moy, Matt Scoles, Faiz Khan, Phebe Hague, Matthew Collins, Patrick Delaney, Lisa Agnew, Jacqueline March and Sara Barlow.

There are 8pm shows on Friday and Saturday from August 17 to September 1, and 2pm Sunday matinees on August 19 and 26. All tickets $17. Phone 4931 2800.