Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is based upon the two characters who appear sporadically in Hamlet. Stoppard’s play considers their lives away from these appearances, where they inhabit a kind of limbo, on the edge of important events which only occasionally draw them in. For the most part, they are forgotten or ignored and have no understanding of how they came to where they are now or where they will be going. Their scenes in Hamlet happen without warning and without any ability on their parts to change the roles they have been allocated.

This production is set in modern dress with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as two backpackers. At the beginning of the play they are seen lying on a blanket. They have had a mysterious summons to court in order to keep an eye on the Prince of Denmark, who has begun behaving strangely, possibly because of the death of his father, the King, the usurpation of his throne by his uncle and his uncle’s incestuous marriage to Hamlet’s widowed mother. Hamlet himself is seen occasionally wandering aimlessly across the stage but Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are unable to communicate with him except in scenes where Shakespeare has shown them meeting. In fact, the only people they can interact with at all are a mysterious player and his performers.

Between their brief appearances in Hamlet they are left alone for hours or days and they fill this time with tossing coins (although the laws of probability do not work wherever they are) and with philosophical discussions and wordplay. Rosencrantz is worried about what has happened to them and what will happen; Guildenstern is happier to take each moment as it comes. Eventually, they become aware of their fate but are unable (or unwilling) to change it.

Dan Jennings (Rosencrantz) and Tom Oakley (Guildenstern) are on stage throughout the entire play and both perform superbly. The only other performer with more than a few lines is Mike Thompson as The Player, who manages to be both mysterious and slightly creepy. Excellent performances in a very good production.

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The Blurb

Tom Stoppard's masterful tale is reborn in this new production featuring marionettes. What if we shared the fate of the two Shakespearean characters in question? This fresh and forceful interpretation challenges notions of human existence, experience and eternal life.

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