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I have been fortunate enough in my life to see some amazing productions at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London. Peering up from the peanut gallery in wonderment at some of the skilful actors treading those hallowed boards, making the lines of Shakespeare, written so many, many years ago, seem just as relevant today. Laughing, crying or waiting with baited breath to see what happens next - even though I have read the stories a hundred times. Every time I have been to the Globe, the experience has been both momentous and memorable.
So when I was offered the chance to see a production of All's Well That Ends Well filmed at Shakespeare's Globe and shown onscreen at my local cinema, I jumped at it. And as expected, it
In partnership with Arts Alliance Media, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre has released three of its 2011 productions to local cinemas. From September 2012, audiences in Australia, New Zealand, UK and USA have the opportunity to see these 'Globe On Screen' initiatives. All's Well That Ends Well is showing at Palace Cinemas and selected Hoyts cinemas nationally for a very limited season from September 26th. Following this is Much Ado About Nothing and Marlowe's Doctor Faustus showing in October and November. Screenings in the USA begin from October 11th. See Palace Cinema website or Hoyts for more details and session times. Or check Shakespeare's Globe on Screen to find a cinema near you.
The story revolves around Helena, an orphaned daughter of a great physician, who saves the life of the King of France by curing him of an illness. As a reward, and with the blessing of his mother (played perfectly by Janie Dee), she chooses young Count Bertram, whom she loves passionately, to be her husband. The marriage is met with horror by the somewhat arrogant Bertram who immediately flees from his new wife in favour of battle ("A young man married is a man that's marred"). In leaving, Bertram swears to Helena that she will never really be his wife and leaves her with two conditions - seemingly impossible for her to meet. Through her single-mindedness, a bit of trickery and help from Diana, the young woman being wooed by Bertram, Helena does fulfil both conditions and is reunited with her husband. He sees the error of his ways and All's Well That Ends Well. This ending has long been problematic in many productions, but Sam Crane who plays the young Count Bertram is so beautiful and looks so happy and remorseful when he is reunited, that it is easy to forgive him for his past behaviour.
All's Well That Ends Well is essentially a romantic comedy and whilst watching the amazing performances, I was reminded about just how funny Shakespeare could be. How clever. How innovative. And how naughty too. You can't help but giggle at the exchange between two characters about virginity. Or laugh with the aptness of Shakespeare's musings on men and women. It may have been true 400 years ago, but I assure you is just as funny and as relevant today. "Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none" is one such piece of infinite wisdom.
One of the best things about All's Well That Ends Well are the cast of minor characters. Buffoons, cynics, noble kings and one particularly lovable fraud and thorough scoundrel make this play so funny, audiences both at the cinema and at the Globe Theatre itself, were often laughing raucously. I was also reminded of what fabulous insults Shakespeare could deliver - "The soul of this man is his clothes" and "I have spoken better of him than he deserves" being two I shall endeavour to work into my own conversation as needed. And next time I am caught with a tear in my eye, I need to remember "Mine eyes smell onions".
In true Globe style, the set is minimalist, almost non-existent, letting the actors and dialogue stand alone and shine. You are however, always aware that this is taking place within the walls of the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, whose presence is constantly felt, reminding you of the magnificent pedigree preceding the performance you are watching. The costumes are amazing too - sumptuous rich materials with some amusingly bright and colourful pieces, which only enhance, rather than distract from, the performance itself.
The production as a whole translates very well from stage to screen, but with an odd sensation, as it did really feel like watching a theatre performance from the comfort of my air-conditioned cinema chair. A few times some of the colours or lighting were mismatched between shots, or you felt that you wanted to look at the reaction of a character while the camera was trained on the character delivering the dialogue, but these were very minor slights in such great a performance. I suspect you also miss the awe and grandeur of the Globe Theatre itself.
Despite this, I did find myself swept up in the story and at times it was all I could do to stop myself from clapping, as I would if I were watching from the peanut gallery. And one of the biggest advantages in seeing a film is that you get the most wonderful close-ups of facial expressions from such gifted actors and can examine details of the costumes which would not otherwise be so apparent.
It was hard to know whether to envy those in the peanut gallery or feel smugly secure in my comfortable seat, knowing that I really did have the best seat in the house.
Natasha Murrihy attended a media screening of All's Well That Ends Well as a guest of Nixco and WeekendNotes.