Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Complexity done well...

Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead

Clwyd Theatr Cymru , New Theatre, Cardiff , March 21, 2002
It’s the second half of Clwyd Theatr Cymru’s double bill at the New Theatre and the performance could be deemed as nothing less than sheer brilliance. Of course the existentialist philosophical intellect of Stoppard contributed significantly to this examination of life and the unpredictability of it, but along with the combination of cast, set and superb direction from Terry Hands, the audience were captivated yet just as confused as our leading men; Oliver Ryan as Rosencrantz and Christian Patterson as Guildenstern.

When Stoppard wrote this play he commented that it was not (like most of his other plays) a play for discussion, he simply expected his audiences to take the play on face value and read little into the complex ideas and philosophies that lie within it. From the beginning, we are compelled to ask questions as a tossed coin that lands heads up 92 times in a row challenges our own assumptions concerning the law of probability. Are they in the real world? The play seems to be theatre within theatre, not a radical assumption given that one of Shakespeare’s most famous quotes describes the world as a stage!

The play focuses on two minor roles in Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ and expands on their story of fate – or maybe chance – or maybe neither. With obvious influences from Wilde, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s rhetorical questions, repetitions, ambiguous statements and witty banter provided the audience with abundant humour and an uncertainty about their own existence on leaving the auditorium. This play is so complex that there seems only two possible ways of performing it; very well or very badly. Clwyd Theatr Cymru most definitely achieved the former with many added layers to Stoppard’s original script. A ‘must see’.

Reviewed by: Victoria Cooper

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