Written by Tom Stoppard
Directed by Cate Clelland
A Canberra REP production
Canberra REP Theatre, Acton to February 28
Reviewed by Len Power 18 February 2022
It must have been quite a relief for the Canberra REP company of ‘Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead’ to finally get this show past an opening night. Delayed just as they were about to open last year by the Covid lockdown, it’s amazing that nearly all of the cast and crew were able to stay with the show all these months later.
‘Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead’ made Tom Stoppard an overnight success when his play was staged by the National Theatre in London in 1967. He has produced a major body of work since then and is still writing to this today.
In the play, two minor characters from Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ consider their place in the world, how much control they have over their own existence and why death is such a preoccupation – universal themes we all ponder at some time in our lives.
We know their ultimate fate and the drama of their futile struggle plays out in a theatrical world that often defies logic. It’s absurd and confusing, richly farcical and darkly unsettling, all at the same time.
The director, Cate Clelland, shows that she understands the deep intricacies of this play, clearly bringing out the underlying themes while keeping it moving at a breathless pace. She has obtained fine performances from her cast.
Lainie Hart skilfully gives her role of Rosencrantz, usually played by a male actor, a warmth and bravado that makes gender unimportant. Josh Wiseman as Guildenstern projects an appealing multi-layered character full of doubt and desperately needing logic to exist. Both actors give admirable performances in these difficult, marathon roles.
In the other substantial role in the play, Arran McKenna as The Player gives a fine traditional actor performance full of colour. There is good work by the other cast members and especially the Troupe Of Players ensemble who display well-considered, individual performances.
This is a lengthy, demanding play that requires close concentration by the audience. Having at least some knowledge of the plot of ‘Hamlet’ beforehand will add to the enjoyment of this play which is now rightly considered a modern classic.
Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at https://justpowerwriting.blogspot.com/.