Directed by Sioned Jones, Shakespeare in the Squares' All's Well That Ends Well proves to be a delightful, engaging, and funny production that combines a fairytale twist and gypsy swing music. 


Shakespeare in the Squares is a not-for-profit company that embarks on a summer tour around various garden spaces in London, to perform a different Shakespeare play each year. They encourage you to bring a picnic, wine, and blankets/sunglasses (depending on the weather), creating a unique theatre environment. Patron of Shakespeare in the Squares, Dame Judi Dench, says All's Well That Ends Well is “a beautiful and complex play rarely performed.' The production has been extended to 31 performances across 25 venues, allowing the production to be accessible in all communities in and outside central London. 


All's Well That Ends Well is a rags-to-riches tale combining a quest, a voyage, a cunning trick, and a rebirth, all tied up with tragedy and comedy. It is well-suited to an outside environment with its woodland scenes and journeying transitions, and it was captured brilliantly in Formosa Gardens, a short walk from Paddington station. Even though it was a chilly evening for June, you could snuggle up in the cosy atmosphere of the garden and enjoy the brilliant acting.


The staging was fairytale-like with pretty garden furniture, a flower arch, and a seat underneath that arch, that ‘became' a chair, throne, and bed. The staging was simple but effective for an outdoor production and the addition of the red, white, and blue bunting made it charming and appropriate for All's Well That Ends Well. With the play being outside, there was the lack of usual stage lighting, darkness, and dramatic shifts of stage items; the lack of this suited the play, however, as they were not needed and they could use music and sudden entrances of characters to build drama. The swing music was brilliant in the background and all the actors played a part in performing different, often unique, instruments. Parolles (played by Toby Gordon) would be drumming, and Lord Oumaine (Jacob Yolland) would use wooden instruments to make horse galloping sounds.


Comedy was also incorporated throughout with a lighthearted tone even during sorrowful parts, using jokes, eye-rolling, and crude humour. Claire-Monique Martin, who played the King, was hilarious in adopting a laughable tone of voice and the way she moved about delicately on stage to portray her character. The audience was asked to participate in certain parts, with children being brought onto the stage and a man in the front row had to act as Lafew's (Lee Orage) daughter, which had everyone in fits of laughter. It was an intimate play that allowed us to be a part of it and it was crafted in a clever engaging way that was never cheesy or overdone.


All of the actors were phenomenal and performed excellently; they were all credible actors who engaged the audience and had natural humour and talent. Founder producers, Sue Fletcher and Martin Neild kept Shakespeare's flare alive in this modern production but incorporated some added humour and some more familiar language to make the play more engaging, relatable, and accessible to its London audiences.


Shakespeare in the Square will be touring until 12th July, at selected venues across London


Review: Cara Scott