Review: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Lantern Theatre

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TOM Stoppard has cleverly taken some minor characters from Shakespeares’s tragedy, Hamlet, and made them central to the play, writes Stephen Grigg.

They appear to be stuck in some alternate universe unsure between what is real and fictional. This is first illustrated in the opening sequence as Guildenstern, played by Rob Myles, dressed in a green tunic, flips a coin continuously with a backdrop of Elsinore. Although it lands eighty-five times in a row on heads, Rosencrantz, played by Johnny Syer in the red tunic seems unimpressed.

Occasionally they feel compelled to utter lines from Hamlet when meeting the Prince of Denmark himself or his evil Uncle Claudius. At others they are at a loose end and play clever word games such as rhetoric, statement or question, a variation on “just a minute”.

David Reid puts in a good performance as The Player. His initial meeting with the two leads is hilarious as he uses his troupe of actors as pornography for sale in order to get an audience for his play. The only dame is Alfred, a six-foot, bearded chap wearing make-up, played by TJ Browne who sent much of the juvenile audience into hysteria.

All of the characters from Hamlet, such as Claudius and Gertrude, are here in wonderful costumes but they take a back seat to the terrific bewildered leads, Syer and Myles.

Director Martin Derbyshire gives us a staggeringly poignant ending given all the japes and jesting that precede it. It’s still a shock when we know its coming from the start.

Stephen Grigg