ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD
by Tom Stoppard.
Chichester Festival Theatre Oaklands Park PO19 6AP To 11 June 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & 2, 8 June 2.15pm.
Audio-described 3 June, 8 June 2.15pm & 11 June 2.15pm.
BSL Signed 2 June 7.30pm.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.
< b>transfer to Haymarket Theatre London.
TICKETS: 01243 781312.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 31 May.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern alive and well in Chichester.
Death and Beckett are prominent in Trevor Nunn’s revival of Tom Stoppard’s first major play. Mortality’s in the script, as in the title, but it seems emphasised here in the discussions between the two minor characters from Hamlet brought centre-stage by Stoppard.
As Shakespeare’s tragedy moves towards multiple deaths, so Stoppard lights fools the way to dusty death. They stumble to Elsinore, around its castle, and on to England where they will meet their unavoidable, unimaginable end.
Meanwhile, setting the first scene on a stage bare apart from a tree recalls Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. And it emphasises how the speculative Guildenstern and initially more practical Rosencrantz respectively follow the pattern of Beckett’s Vladimir and Estragon. Not that Stoppard’s bound by that – something signed perhaps by the tree’s silent removal with the arrival of the acting troupe en route to Elsinore.
Sitting on their luggage, the title two often form an onstage audience; a look ahead to The Real Inspector Hound – as Rosencrantz’s speculation on how differently toe and finger-nails grow might be the germ of Thomasina’s questions in Arcadia?
But it doesn’t need the later canon to appreciate the play. Though the large bare stage sometimes stretches the material when the pair are alone (the play contrasts the larger-scale scenes from Hamlet and the players’ sections with two-hander scenes), by pointing-up that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are both actors and audience, it provides a metaphor for the play’s underlying tension between free-will and fate.
Rosencrantz moves from easy acceptance of the fate that puts money in his purse by repeatedly landing coins heads-up to speculating on the impossibility of imagining being dead. His fly-by mind is finely caught by Samuel Barnett, with sudden changes of expression, and a tendency to dart in various directions before pulling himself up short.
It’s a major performance, contrasted by Jamie Parker’s more thoughtfully anxious Guildenstern. Nunn uses the darkness repeatedly provided by Tim Mitchell’s lighting-plot (even the Exit lights off at times), while Steven Edis’s score plucks lightly at the sense of mystery play and production find beneath the jokes and games.
Rosencrantz: Samuel Barnett.
Guildenstern: Jamie Parker.
The Player: Chris Andrew Mellon.
Alfred: Charlie Hamblett.
Players: Trevor Allan Davies, Zav Fox, Greg Last, James Northcote, Stephen Pallister.
Musician: Keith Thompson.
Ophelia: Katherine Press.
Hamlet: Jack Hawkins.
Claudius: James Simmons.
Polonius/Ambassador: Andrew Jarvis.
Courtiers: Tomm Coles, Tom Golding, Elisabeth Hopper, Jody Elen Machin, Stephen Pallister.
Horatio: Michael Benz.
Fortinbras: Tom Golding.
Soldier: Stephen Pallister.
Director: Trevor Nunn.
Designer: Simon Higlett.
Lighting: Tim Mitchell.
Sound: Paul Groothuis.
Music: Steven Edis.
Movement: Etta Murfitt.
Costume: Fotini Dimou.
Fight director: Malcolm Ranson.
Associate director: Michael Oakley.
Associate sound: John Owens.