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FRINGE '04: All’s Well that Ends Well

All’s Well that Ends Well by William Shakespeare

Who: Butterfly Creek Theatre Troupe
Where: Muritai School Yard, Eastbourne (outside – but moves inside in poor weather)

When: 7.30, 24 – 28 February
Tickets: $12, $10 & $8
Ticketek (booking fee applies)

Eastbourne True Value

Eastbournes’ Butterfly Creek Theatre Troupe has chosen All’s Well that Ends Well for this year’s popular outdoor Bard in the Yard Fringe presentation.

This is the third year the Troupe has brought the Bard to Fringe audiences. They’re getting a name for strong performances, often of lesser-seen Shakespeare.

The Dominion Post said last year’s show about women from the History plays was “an insightful look at a different aspect of Shakespeare.”

The group’s earlier production of The Winter’s Tale was said to show, “great understanding and depth of knowledge about not only the play but also the subtleties of playing Shakespeare.” Another reviewer called it an “accessible and compelling production”.

Wellington hasn’t seen a recent performance of All’s Well. It hasn’t been done professionally and the university’s only remembered show was more than 30 years ago.

For many years the play was branded a ‘problem play’ and received only rare stagings around the world. But John Marwick, who will direct the play in Eastbourne, believes it deserves a much better name and a wider audience.

“It’s an overlooked gem” Marwick says – and he seems to be in good company. Britain’s Royal Shakespeare Company’s production opened at Stratford-on-Avon in December starring Dame Judi Dench in what the Guardian’s theatre critic called an “exquisite production of this infinitely fascinating play”.

Marwick, creator and usual director of the Bard in the Yard series, sees the play as an intriguing mix of reality and romance. Shakespeare he says has written characters with very real human frailties and set them in a fairy tale story. In the past that combination was thought to be unclear, unworkable and too difficult, so, when it was produced, directors tended to emphasise either reality or romance.

But modern theatre audiences are much more comfortable with ambiguity and shades of meaning. “We’re used to anti-heroes and black comedy,” Marwick says “and we don’t always expect that everything will work out perfectly.”

Marwick thinks that in this play Shakespeare deliberately pushes the boundaries of ambiguity. To underline this and the play’s uncertain ending Marwick has added a question mark to the title: All’s Well that Ends Well?

An intensive rehearsal period is just starting for the 12 strong cast most of whom are locals and have appeared in previous Bard in the Yard shows – though two are making the journey from Wellington. Parts are keenly sought after and actors keep coming back for more. This despite the difficulties of Shakespeare’s language, learning lines in only six weeks, and presenting ‘in the round’ and outdoors (though they move inside if the weather turns bad).

As in previous years the format for the shows is to strip the plays down to bare essentials. The venue is literally a yard – in this case the Muritai School Yard. Audience are seated around the acting area with only simple lighting and minimal set. Even costume is minimised so that the whole attention focuses on Shakespeare’s language, his story and the people in it.

Marwick says that when he follows this format and trusts to Shakespeare’s genius and understanding of human nature “we always find the magic of the plays.”

The play, as one of the characters says, is about life as a mingled yarn of good and ill together. There will be moments to smile and laugh and times to cry and wonder at our fellow man.

As usual the world’s greatest playwright “holds the mirror up to nature.”

ENDS

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