All's Well That Ends Well, NT Olivier, London
When the Rain Stops Falling, Almeida, London
Aunt Dan and Lemon, Royal Court Downstairs, London

Childish animations distract from the real magic of the text in Marianne Elliott's multimedia Shakespeare

You might think it was a show for six-years-olds. Behind the turrets of a witchy black castle, cartoon animals keep popping up on the projected backdrop. Eek, a big spider, howling wolves, a blinking owl. This is Scooby-Doo, right? No, it's Shakespeare's challenging problem play, All's Well That Ends Well, staged by the NT's associate director Marianne Elliott. Courtesy of her multimedia design team, it often looks like kidult entertainment, going straight to DVD.

The animations are condescending and unimpressive. They also distract from the seriously magical moment when Michelle Terry's lowly yet aspiring Helena – determined to save the dying King of France (excellent Oliver Ford Davies) – proffers a potion and soothing words which entrance him. Certainly fairy-tale elements are at work in All's Well. Marina Warner's programme note pinpoints the twists Shakespeare applies to folkloric motifs, especially his fusions of good and bad female archetypes. Clare Higgins picks up on that, as the Countess who employs the orphaned Helena. As she questions the young woman – discerning a secret yearning for her aristocratic son, Bertram – Higgins is mercurial, flicking back and forth between wicked queen and fairy godmother with real psychological complexity.

Here is also a socially radical Helena. Looking like a dowdy Victorian housemaid, Terry mournfully alludes to her humble stock. Yet she has forceful assurance and hurdles hierarchical barriers. Having cured the King, she gets to choose her husband from his corralled nobles.

George Rainsford's callow Bertram is strikingly aghast to find himself forced into this arranged marriage. He runs away to the wars, accompanied by a cowardly braggart, Conleth Hill's Parolles. So, there are some admirable actors here, but dull patches. Rainsford might intensify Bertram's arrogance, and Terry's bed trick – trapping him a second time – could be more morally disturbing.

And, again, the design team do not help. Why must Helena and her colluding body double dress up in tarty pussy-cat outfits for a naff silhouetted seduction scene? And Bertram must be blind not to recognise that the massive, blue, glow-in-the-dark ring, which he's given as a token, is his wife's. Stone the crows!

The gently mournful family saga When the Rain Stops Falling holds out the hope that all may still end well, even after eight decades of sorrowful aberrations. This drama by Australia's Andrew Bovell (co-author of Strictly Ballroom) charts the variously intertwined and estranged lives of four generations.

Ranging in time and place from London in 1959 to Alice Springs in 2039, it's a story of troubled couples, tragically lost loved ones and distant parents. Anxieties about child abuse are buried under the surface, although the journey taken by Andrew – the son in the last generation – tentatively points towards redemption, or at least to re-established connections and some understanding of what's past.

Yet the play isn't immediately winning. Richard Hope's initial appearance as the down-at-heel loner, Gabriel York – surrounded by milling strangers with umbrellas – looks choreographically passé, like some mime festival show from the 1980s. When York screams and a fish falls from the sky, it appears we're in for an evening of whimsy and thudding religious symbols. Then Bovell makes his characters tiresomely repeat each other's lines, in different eras.

And yet, by degrees, each of their stories becomes poignant. Structurally, too, Bovell displays a light touch, interweaving past, present and future, so that they all seem to haunt each other. And you only see the whole picture at the close, like a solution found for an elaborate puzzle.

Michael Attenborough's ensemble proves quietly engrossing. Phoebe Nicholls is bruisingly unmaternal as the older Elizabeth: a damaged soul, emotionally frozen over. By contrast, Tom Mison is beautifully tender as her frustrated son, who flees and finds romance in the Australian wilderness with Naomi Bentley's tough but yearning Gabrielle. A slow burn.

Finally, the Royal Court's season dedicated to the American Wallace Shawn has been up and down, to put it mildly. Aunt Dan and Lemon (from 1985) descends swiftly into pointless, self-indulgent rambling.

Dominic Cooke's cast does its best. Jane Horrocks's wide-eyed narrator, the oddly named Lemon (an old nickname) steps back into her childhood. She recalls how her parents' intellectual friend, Lorraine Ashbourne's swish Dan, told her inappropriate bedtime stories: tales of her boho sex life and femme-fatale friend, Mindy. We see Mindy strangling a guy with her stockings.

Between these unpleasant lurid digressions, Aunt Dan launches into endless raving panegyrics about Henry Kissinger using aggression in Vietnam. I guess this fits Cooke's agenda of exposing the dark side of superficial lefties, but what a drag!

A host of actors, with bit parts, skulk in the alcoves of Lemon's attic. Eternally hoping Shawn might remember to bring them back into play, they glance plaintively at those punters who – unable to tolerate the boredom – scramble for the sighing exit doors.



'All's Well That Ends Well' (020-7452 3000) to 11 Jul; 'When the Rain Stops Falling' (020-7359 4404) to 4 Jul; 'Aunt Dan and Lemon' (020-7565 5000) to 27 Jun

Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
music

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
music

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
film

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

    The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

    The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit