Fresh snow at the Globe

Shakespeare’s Globe to present Much Ado and All’s Well in 2011

The Globe 2011 season announced today contains only two main house Shakespeare productions: the much-loved, crowd-pleasing comedy workhorse Much Ado About Nothing and the unjustly neglected rarity All’s Well That Ends Well.

Much Ado is so strong a piece it could be made out of girders. The merry war between the principal characters is robust enough a story to flourish under any conditions.

All’s Well, on the other hand, has not enjoyed the same degree of popularity and exposure. But this lack of familiarity can be turned to advantage and used to explore the play without the encumbrance of expectation.

If staging Hamlet is like treading a worn, muddy path with the footsteps of those that have gone before all too visible, then putting on All’s Well is like stepping out into crisp, fresh snow.

The 2009 National Theatre production chose to highlight the fairytale element in the play and contrast it with the adult reality of relationships. This created a very modern and cynical subversion of the fairytale format.

The precise approach of the Globe production obviously remains to be seen. But it’s to be hoped that the final moment of the NT production, with Helena and Bertram looking at each other aghast at their awkwardly contrived and ill-starred marriage, will point the director towards an exploration of the play’s hidden depths, perhaps to find other modern resonances.

Staging these two plays in the same season is also a great opportunity for comparison and contrast. Highlighting in particular how All’s Well differs from its more familiar stable mate should throw those differences into sharper relief, providing us with an even clearer view of what this neglected gem has to offer.

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