London’s Globe Theater’s performances of Shakespeare’s plays are the gold standard, even when staging All’s Well That Ends Well, one of Shakespeare’s most dramatically difficult and less popular plays.
To modern audiences, the play is confusing and even disturbing. Helena’s obsession with Bertram, his cruel rejection of and departure from her after their marriage, and her entrapment of him with the bed trick, make “All’s Wrong” a better title.
But in an age when married woman had virtually no rights or recourse if a husband treated her horribly (which kept even the queen unmarried), Helena takes matters into her own hands and delivers on her promise of “all’s well that ends well.”
Every actor in the 2011 cast does a fine job. Janie Dee as the Countess of Roussillon is stately and convincing. James Garnon as Parolles is wonderful, and Colin Hurley’s Lavatch (the clown) a delight to watch. And Ellie Piercy’s Helen is both sympathetic and strong.
The production is performed in the Elizabethan style, with lush costumes but few props and no scenery—which no one misses. The final scene, especially is thoroughly entertaining and satisfying, which is a huge accomplishment.
It is available in the Globe app, on DVD, and via various online streaming services.