Helena loves Bertram, but he's of noble birth, while she's just a doctor's daughter. But Bertram is at the court of the King of France, who is ill, and Helena has a remedy that might cure ... See full summary »
Helena loves Bertram, but he's of noble birth, while she's just a doctor's daughter. But Bertram is at the court of the King of France, who is ill, and Helena has a remedy that might cure him and win her the right to marry Bertram. But does Bertram want to marry her? Written by
The production design of this video is based on paintings by Vermeer, Rembrandt, de la Tour and others. It is uniformly striking and lovely, and will live in the memory.
The acting performances are good, but uneasy, perhaps reflecting the problematic nature of the play. Ian Charleson's Bertram is cold, Angela Down's Helen is weepy, and so they stay for yards and yards of iambic pentameter. Only Donald Sinden as the King errs on the side of too much emotional variety, but it's hard to remember a Sinden performance in which he wasn't an explosive law unto himself. Michael Hordern and Peter Jeffrey battle deftly as Lafeu and Parolles, while Paul Brooke's Lavache is more menacing than witty. Pippa Guard's Diana is unfailingly dignified, and a small cameo by the aged Valentine Dyall proves unexpectedly moving. And as the Countess, Celia Johnson's presence is every bit as sympathetic here as it was in "Brief Encounter" 35 years earlier.
Any dissatisfactions mentioned in this review are just quibbles, however, as the play is rare and worthwhile, the production gratifies the eye, and no one writes a closing reconciliation scene like Shakespeare. Indeed, All's Well That Ends Well.
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