Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead: Reviewed

A play on a play in a play

Coming to the end of Week 11, and my 3rd semester at St. Andrews, I really don’t know where the last three months have gone. Or what I’m going to do with the next two. Or, let’s face it, what’s in the fridge. But on 27th and 28th November, discussion of the ‘most first thing after all the things you forgot’ came from no manic, library-bound student, essay notes in clenched fists, their last decent night out/sleep an increasingly hazy memory. Rather, the Barron Theatre was host to Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, a 1960s-written absurdist tragicomedy, starring two minor Hamlet characters. Think -if you ever regain the desire to live after reading it- Waiting for Godot with (slightly) more action.

And that’s a point: audiences can be easily bored by existentialist drama, but the medley of live and recorded music, lighting and sound helped make this performance a treat. Basic set with a raised platform at the back also allowed for interesting tableaus and background action. The actors themselves were generally very physically dynamic. Alexander Gillespie, Gareth Owen and Hannah Raymond-Cox (Guildenstern, Rosencrantz and the Player), made particularly good use of stage space. However, some of Hannah’s otherwise impressive gestures would have been better served by shorter heels or, frankly, a bit more practice with those killers. Get thee to the Lizard etc. etc.

Talking of Shakespeare, Olly Lennard gave an exceptional ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy. His understated, regal Hamlet offset the comically mundane dialogue between Alexander and Gareth, whose comic timing was pretty good, even if the absurdist banter –Absanter…? Alright, I’ll work on it- dragged a little towards the end of Act 2.

Another notable moment was the Tragedians’ farcical play, amusingly narrated by Hannah, but there really was no weak element throughout the play. I was lucky enough to briefly catch the director, Alice Shearon, at the end for a couple of questions: despite having not been able to see much on Thursday night, she seemed pleased with the performance. There had been few mishaps during rehearsal, though Ophelia (Suzanne Johnston) got concussion during the final week! Most importantly, I got a sense that the cast, director and producer (Alicia Schultz) had really enjoyed the creative process: all in all, this play deserved the full audience which it received.