Past/Present/Future for ... All's Well That Ends Well's Janie DeeDate: 16 May 2011
Janie Dee is currently appearing as Countess Rousillion in Shakespeare's Globe's first production of All's Well That Ends Well. The show, which is directed by John Dove opened on 5 May 2011 (previews 27 April) and has a cast that also includes Ellie Piercy, Sam Crane and Sam Cox.
Dee's varied career has seen her play roles across musical theatre, comedy, contemporary drama, Shakespeare and opera. Most recently, she was seen at the Leicester Curve, starring as Anna in The King and I and at the Chichester Festival, where she received critical acclaim for her performance in Brian Friel's adaptation of A Month in the Country.
Back in 2000, Dee received great praise playing Jacie Triplethree in Alan Ayckbourn's comedy Comic Potential, for which she received an Olivier, a London Evening Standard, and a Critics' Circle Theatre Best Actress award, a feat matched only by Judi Dench.
I spoke to Dee about her role in All's Well That Ends Well and performing at the Globe; standouts in her extensive career, including Betrayal and Comic Potential; and her many upcoming ventures, including a possible return to The King and I.
Betrayal was a learning curve. It really got rid of something within me. It helped me understand betrayal, and actually empathise with it, rather than judge it. It’s not bad. It isn’t great, I’m not condoning it either, but it gave me a great understanding of betrayal and why it can happen. Its’ totally understandable, it’s the human condition, we look for love. We look for love and sometimes we look in the wrong places. You need it. When you give it, you need to receive it, and that was great to explore.
The King and I, which I recently did at the Curve, is still with me. It was a joyous time and a great triumph for the curve; it was very exciting. And of course Carousel at the National Theatre will be with me for the rest of my life. Everything touches your heart.
There are very few things I wouldn’t mention. With Comic Potential, Alan Ayckbourn wrote this play and I could recognise something in it that was a brilliant invention. I recognised a sort of Biblical journey. By the time it got out to America, I never told anyone this, but there was a feeling to me that this journey was a bit like Christ. But anyway, it was my secret. But if you took the time to look for it, all the bits were there. The resurrection was in there, it's all in there. But I never spoke to him about it. It was an amazing play.
All's Well That Ends Well has been an absolute joy. It's a really interesting, wonderful play. I think people feel it’s very funny, because it is very funny, but it’s only funny because of the situations we’ve built and the things that people say, and who they are when they say it.
The director, John Dove, really put that in the play. Although it's very funny, I think it’s very true as well. One person said to me “Oh it made me cry.” I had another friend in the other night who said “Why do people call this a problem play? It’s amazing, but I never laughed when other people laughed.” Which is brilliant, it’s so great when everybody has their different takes on the play. I think the play is about faith as well as it about love. There’s a lot of faith in the play. Faith in people, faith in goodness, and the affect that has.
I walk around the Globe on the verge of tears and ecstatic laughter. There’s a certain atmosphere in the theatre. I saw Macbeth performed here last year, and the moment I walked in, as I walked through the arena, I felt it, it hit me. And by the end of the performance, which I've never seen a better production of, I walked out and thought "Oh my god, I have to work there." And my prayers have been answered, because I was offered this job five months ago and it literally felt like a gift from God. I wonder if the hole in the roof has something to do with it, or whether it’s still exactly like the original, so there’s some sort of magic in it. There’s something in it—that’s actually a line in the play. There’s something in it that effects the audience and affects the players.
We have been so lucky with the weather. I mean I'm not worried about rain, because I've worked outside before, and the rain brings something to an event, because it wouldn't ever rain in a theatre, so it brings out a sort of drama and realism, and you get more emotion. So I'm not worried about that. I'm worried about the people on the ground getting wet, but evidently I've heard they just their hoods up and carry on.
Working with John Dove has been a great adventure and a learning curve. Many doors have been opened in my head thanks to him. A friend of mine told me, “if this guy offers you a job, just say yes.” I’ve learned so much, I’m continuing to learn. He’s left us in a place where we’re open and continuing the journey. I’m very blessed to have him.
I love the job, I love being an actress, and singer, and dancer. I want to do it all for as long as I can. Sometimes when there are too many offers - which I know most actors would say "lucky you," which I agree, it is very lucky, but it's a dilemma. I am doing a cabaret in July, I’ve done cabaret quite a lot. and each one I do is great fun. And then, in October, I am doing Private Lives at the Nottingham Playhouse with my husband, which is the first time we’ve actually worked together since we met in Romeo and Juliet. We found our children a wonderful au pair, and they're okay with it, I talked to them about it. After that, The King and I may well return. Everyone might come back, but nothing's final yet.
All's Well That Ends Well opened on 5 May 2011 (previews 27 April) at Shakespeare's Globe where it continues in rep until 21 August.
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- Brenna Weingus