All’s Well That Ends Well

June 26 – August 11 · Howard Family Stage in the Douglas Campbell Theatre

This new, bold staging of All’s Well That Ends Well is set in India during the waning days of British occupation and the cusp of Indian independence. Helena, a privileged young Indian woman, secretly loves Bertram, an officer in the British Army.  Cultural, social and political barriers stand between them – but Helena doesn’t give up, and her journey takes her into the heart of her own culture and identity as this tumultuous love story unfolds against a backdrop of dramatic societal change.

Co-created and co-directed by Johnna Wright (The Merry Wives of Windsor, 2016) and Rohit Chokhani (Artistic Director, Diwali in BC).

Carmen Alatorre, Costume Designer; Pam Johnson, Set Designer; Alan Brodie & Conor Moore, Lighting Designers; Ruby Singh, Sound Designer/Composer; Poonam Sandhu, Choreographer; Paneet Singh, Creative Cultural Consultant; Alison Matthews, Head Voice & Text Coach; Nutan Thakur, Hindi Dialect Coach

Advisory: All characters and events in this play, while fictional, are dramatized through references to religious, political and cultural history. As a result, please note that this production may cause strong reactions. 
The Douglas Campbell theatre program presents two plays back to back in 2019 – the final performance of All’s Well That Ends Well is August 11 and the first preview for Coriolanus is August 21. 

Production Sponsor

Photo Credit: Sarena Parmar as Helena Photo & Image Design: Emily Cooper

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26June Wednesday 7:30PM
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28June Friday 7:30PM
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29June Saturday 7:30PM
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30June Sunday 7:30PM
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The Story

THE DOCTOR’S DAUGHTER
During the waning days of British Colonial rule in India, a privileged Hindu woman named Helena is secretly in love with Bertram, a British aristocrat and officer. Bertram lives in Ambala with his mother, the Countess of Roussillon. Helena has been the Countess’ ward since the death of her father, a respected doctor. With the movement for independence spreading across India, Bertram is called to the palace in Delhi by the Viceroy. While he is away, Helena reveals her love for Bertram to the Countess. She also shares her plan to heal the Viceroy’s grave illness.

THE CURE
Using traditional healing practices learned from her father, Helena cures the Viceroy. As a reward, he gives her the power to choose a husband from a host of bachelors. Helena picks Bertram, but he rejects her because of her social standing. However the Viceroy forces him to accept her, and the two are married.

THE LETTER
Before Helena and Bertram can share a marriage bed, he flees to the North to fight as a soldier. He sends Helena a letter saying that she can only call him her husband if she fulfills two seemingly impossible tasks.

AN UNLIKELY ALLIANCE
Rejected by Bertram, Helena embarks on a pilgrimage. She arrives in a Northern village where she meets a poor Hindu widow with a daughter, Diana. Helena learns that Bertram, who is stationed nearby, has tried to seduce Diana, and Helena conspires with the women to trick him. As part of their scheme, Bertram is given Helena’s ring, although he is unaware of its rightful owner.

THE RETURN
Back home, everyone believes that Helena is dead. Bertram returns to his mother’s home in Ambala. He receives consent to remarry, but the Viceroy recognizes the ring he plans to offer with his new marriage proposal. It’s a ring the Viceroy had given to Helena, so he is suspicious of how Bertram obtained it. The Viceroy orders Bertram’s arrest. Diana enters to reveal the true story about the ring, which is proven when Helena steps forward alive to claim her husband.

Directors' Notes

We are excited to stage this unique take on All’s Well at Bard on the Beach, setting one of Shakespeare’s “problem plays” in the midst of problematic times in India.

The decision to place our All’s Well at this pivotal moment in Indian history – the end of British colonial rule – has allowed us to confront issues around the topics of colonization, privilege, identity, culture, race and gender, while at the same time shedding new light on the story of Helena and Bertram.

India may be a “free country” now, but the aftermath of the British occupation is still being experienced through conflicts around its borders, and within the Indian subcontinent and its diverse culture as a whole. The trauma continues to affect generations of South Asians that live in Canada and world wide. The topic is too broad in its scope to be fully investigated in a few hours on stage. With All’s Well we look at this moment in time through the eyes of one woman. Our production takes place in an imagined India, and in a fictionalized version of history – much as Shakespeare fictionalized the history of Britain.

Helena’s relationship with her own culture and identity is complex and deeply experienced in this play, much as matters of identity and cultural
belonging are experienced by Canadians today. What impact will the painful events of abandonment, and her own wanderings, bring to Helena just as her own country enters a period of profound chaos and conflict?

With this production we strive to make Shakespeare accessible to new communities, including the South Asian community in BC, and to invite different communities to experience a small sliver of South Asian history as we have fused it with Shakespeare’s text. It has been both challenging and exhilarating to interpret this play in a new context, augmented by music and dance, and to explore some of the complexities that exist in this diverse and beautiful country. And it has been an exciting journey to collaborate with artists from such richly different backgrounds, practices and perspectives.

We hope you’ll enjoy the ride, ask a few pointed questions of your own and perhaps even get inspired for a debate. Hopefully with some samosas and chai!

Johnna Wright and Rohit Chokhani