Sunday, April 12, 2015

All’s Well That Ends Well (2011) DVD Review

All’s Well That Ends Well is a two-disc set that captures a performance of the play at The Globe. The performance stars Sam Crane, Ellie Piercy, Janie Dee, James Garnon and Colin Hurley. The film opens with an exterior shot of The Globe and a couple of shots of the audience inside before the play starts. The actors file onto the stage and greet audience members directly, and present a short song.

Act I

Throughout the opening speeches, Helena (Ellie Piercy) stands stage right, wiping tears from her eyes. Countess (Janie Dee) goes to her and puts her hand on the back of her head on “she derives her honesty,” and speaks kindly of her. On “takes all livelihood from her cheek,” she strokes Helena’s cheek, then suddenly slaps it, a surprising and funny moment, leading to her line, “No more of this, Helena, go to.” It’s a great moment, but she then also slaps Bertram’s face on “in manners as in shape,” after putting the ring on his finger. This understandably gets less of a laugh from the audience, and fortunately it does not become a running gag. Bertram (Sam Crane) delivers “the best wishes that can be forged in your thoughts be servants to you” to his mother. He then goes to Helena and kisses her forehead before delivering the rest of the speech to her. He uses the handkerchief to wipe her face, another nice moment, helping to establish that Bertram is a decent fellow. The last part of Helena’s speech is cut, the part about Parolles being a liar, fool and coward – an odd cut. James Garnon does a really good job as Parolles, and after Helena asks, “How might one do it, sir, to lose it to her own liking,” he looks at audience members, using them for his next speech, pointing at one audience member on “ill, to like him that ne’er it likes,” and then finding another who might be a good choice. But Helena walks away from him. Parolles addresses that man again on “Will you anything with it?” The Page calls Parolles from off stage.

The King (Sam Cox) uses a walking stick and sometimes holds his side, but otherwise seems fairly strong and lively in his first scene.

Lavatch’s straight, somewhat sad delivery of “My poor body, Madam, requires it” is wonderful. You totally believe him. He delivers his lines to Countess with honesty rather than the sly playfulness often associated with clown roles. Several speeches are cut after Countess’ “Helen, I mean.” Instead, Lavatch (Colin Hurley) stands his ground, leading directly to Countess’ “You’ll be gone, sir knave.” On Countess’ “Nay, a mother,” she reaches her hand out to Helena, who steps back slightly, leading to Countess’ “Why not a mother?” I love Helena’s reactions during Countess’ speech. She clearly wants to tell her of her reasons, but isn’t sure how or whether she should. And Countess’ reactions are also excellent in this scene. Both actors shine here.

Act II

The King is clearly worse off now, being pushed in on a wheelchair at the beginning of the second act. His changing outlook in the scene with Helena is wonderful. Likewise, Helena goes from shy, timid and careful to more sure and daring during the scene.

I love Lavatch’s delivery of “or any buttock,” clearly meaning the Countess’ own. Countess is great as she decides t play along with Lavatch’s game. At the end of the scene, Countess adds the word “back,” saying, “Haste you back again,” and Lavatch adds a response: “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

When the King enters, he does so without aid, being fully recovered. The four lords that Helena is to choose from stand stage left, while Bertram, Parolles and Lafeu (Michael Bertenshaw) stand stage right, with King and Helena between them. So when Helena turns and chooses Bertram, he is understandably shocked. After all, in the staging, he wasn’t even part of the group – an excellent choice. It’s also wonderful that Helena clearly feels awkward, even bad, about forcing herself on Bertram, and so when the King says “Smile upon this contract,” neither Bertram nor Helena is smiling. When Lafeu calls Parolles a hen, he imitates a hen, and obviously takes some joy in it. Both Lafeu and Parolles are excellent in this scene.

Bertram feels bad for having to send Helena home, and there is a connection between them, which of course is important to establish and show. After Helena’s “and not kiss,” Bertram approaches her and kisses her. I have mixed feelings about that, because it seems a step too far, especially this early.


Countess is wonderful as she reads Bertram’s letter, at first overjoyed at the line “I have sent you a daughter-in-law,” and then puzzled at “undone me.”

When Mariana says, “Many a maid hath been seduced by them,” she clearly refers to herself, and both Diana and Widow reach out a hand to comfort her. That’s a nice touch. And from Diana’s look, it’s apparent this is not news to them.

Widow’s delivery of “I have yielded” is funny and wonderful.

Act IV

Parolles makes a humorous show of determining the time to be ten o’clock. He delivers “What shall I say I have done” directly to an audience member, then is upset not to receive a reply. I love the long pause before “I must give myself some hurts,” and I love his delivery of that line, as he comes to it reluctantly.

It’s nice that there are some moments when Diana weakens and wants to give into Bertram’s affections.

The joke about the stocks carrying Parolles is cut.

Lavatch’s reference to Nebuchadnezzar is cut. His final speech of the fourth act is also cut.

Act V

Lafeu says “upon mine honor” instead of “By my old beard/And every hair that’s on ‘t” when Bertram gives him the ring. Perhaps that’s due to the actor having no beard. I love King’s delivery of “Thou hast spoken all already” and of “Take her away; I do not like her now.” The epilogue is not spoken by the King, but by Rinaldo.

A dance concludes the performance.

This production of All's Well That Ends Well was directed for the stage by John Dove, and directed for the screen by Robin Lough. The intermission comes at the end of Act II. And the rest of the play is on the second disc. This two-disc set contains no special features. The DVD is part of the Globe Theatre On Screen series, released by Kultur. As for the release date, the DVD box has it has 2011, IMDB has it as 2012, and Amazon has it as 2013, so take your pick.

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