Bride's nightmare scenario

AMY JACKMAN
Last updated 05:00 16/01/2014
bride

JILTED BRIDE: Hilary Penwarden as Helena in The Bacchanals' production of Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well.

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How do you act like you're in love with a horrible person?

That's the question facing Hilary Penwarden, who plays Helena in The Bacchanals' next production, Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well.

Director David Lawrence said the characters in the play were a challenge.

"There are a lot of difficulties with things that happen in the play, depending on what your take of it is," he said.

"For Hilary, who plays Helena, it's having to find a way to justify being in love with an arsehole and for Joe, who plays Bertram, it's having to play that arsehole in a manner that makes him quite sympathetic."

All's Well opens with the low-born Helena called to heal the King of France from a terrible disease.

After saving him, he tells her she can marry whomever she desires. Unfortunately, the seemingly virtuous Bertram rejects her and Helena goes on a quest to win his love.

The light-hearted romantic comedy may seem at odds with The Bacchanals' usual cutting political dramas, but Lawrence said while they would be having fun, gender politics were a big part of the show.

"Without giving away the ending, the way that Helena gets her man is either really clever and admirable or not," he said.

"You can see her actions as a really clever trick or look at them reversed and think what would happen if he was playing that trick on her.

"It's a proto-feminist play and is big on exploring the double standards for gender in relationships and sex.

"It comes from a very weird little pocket of Shakespeare's career.

"I've always really loved the strange gender politics of it, along with those in Measure for Measure and Troilus and Cressida."

Last summer The Bacchanals put on Coriolanus, a Shakespeare play filled with blood, homoerotica and desire for parents.

This year Roseneath's Long Hall will be filled with magic potions, dying kings and wronged heroines.

"The audience will hopefully be surprised by it," Lawrence said.

"We wanted something which was a complete contrast to last summer, so we decided on a comedy rather than a tragedy, a small-scale show rather than an epic.

"We really enjoyed seeing the great time the audience had last summer when they didn't know the play.

"We again chose a play that doesn't get put on a lot, so there is more ability for us to surprise the audience."

Lawrence also said The Bacchanals would be back to their old tricks later in the year with plenty of political satire before the general election.

- All's Well That Ends Well by William Shakespeare, Roseneath Long Hall, 13 Maida Vale Rd (behind Roseneath School and St Barnabas), Jan 23 till Feb 1, 7pm, no show Mondays. Tickets $15 from tickets@thebacchanals.net.

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