Sunday, 26 June 2011

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead Review

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
by Tom Stoppard
Theatre Royal Haymarket SW1

Once More With Feeling

There is a Second World War poem by WH Auden Musee des Beaux Arts  about artistic and human perspectives on suffering, so maybe such ideas have had currency for a long time. But even an old idea can lead to something real and  heart-breaking in the centre. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are two minor Shakespearean characters whom Shakespeare (and possibly his source?) predestines to as grisly an end as most of the other characters in HamletAccording to the playwright Tom Stoppard, a fellow journalist on its first night, just over halfway through the 20th century,  was convinced Stoppard's play was actually about “two reporters on a story that doesn’t stand up”. Whatever, the idea of an anachronistic pair in Hamlet out-takes, trying to work out what the hell is going on in the dark and murky world of the King’s court was then new-ish and compelling. Knowing philosophical quips are a bit of a Stoppard trademark (TLT is an expert of course, having experienced, oh, at least four Stoppard plays … ;) ) and some critics have begrudged the clever-clever banter, finding the 1960s' post-modern premise a little dated. TLT had some sympathy for this view during the first half but it all still stands up in the context of the whole play – maybe today’s equivalent could be two elite economics students smugly debating their university theories and computerized financial models  – then after the interval cometh the crunch … (© TLT ;) ). It’s the second half of the story which comes up trumps with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s last journey, a poignant sea voyage,  stateless between Denmark and England, as they carry unwittingly the visa to their execution. Excellent cast and the final journey towards the inevitable eventually clinched it for TLT. An amber light.

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