Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead (Theatre Royal, Haymarket)

Posted on June 29, 2011

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The theatre, like Christianity, has a trinity. Sondheim, Sorkin & Stoppard. Okay, so Sorkin is mainly about film & television, but you can’t deny Stephen & Tom their places up on Mount Olympus (yes, I just switched religious metaphors. I’m as polygamous in my beliefs as I am in my sheets!) So when _____ invited me along to see ‘Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead‘ who was I to turn him down?

Plus I had no other offers that evening.

With seats in row O (which is bearable) I was struck by how ‘Godot‘ the set was. Moody lighting through what looked like rafters and a solitary tree…

The draw for the show was the reunion of former ‘History BoysSamuel Barnett & Jamie Parker, but I was also itching (no, not like that!) to see Chris Andrew Mellon take on the role of The Player with the sudden departure of Tim Curry (which I had absolutely nothing to do with).

“It’s like being seduced by the man at the bar with a fast tongue (always a  good sign)”

‘R+G r Dead’ was Stoppard’s first play and it has that frantic energy that so many first works have (like a young lover who is keen to thrust it in), it’s an exercise is wit and self-conscious intellectual bragging. Which probably makes it sounds fucking dreary, but it’s not. It’s like being seduced by the man at the bar with a fast tongue (always a  good sign) and an air of arrogant confidence that you just need to discover if it’s real or just for show.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve sat through a few productions of ‘R+G R Dead’ in my days and in most you tend to forgive the rough patches because the text is so good. Here we have two incredibly fine actor who fill the shells that Stoppard has given them, with a life, intellect and humour that so many lesser actors lack. Stoppard, like Shakespeare, seems forever doomed to a history of actors being so lost remembering their lines they forget why they’re saying them, but not here. sweet young Sammy & the comfortably masculine Jamie make even the toughest lines of dialogue, and every intellectual flip-flop, seem effortlessly natural. Here Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are friends with a comfortable intimacy about them.

And Chris Andrew Mellon shines as the third member of this fantastic threesome. Where I suspect Tim would have walked onto stage shining with in built star power & instant recognition, Chris works his way into audience’s minds with finesse. Where I fear you would have only seen ‘Tim Curry being The Player’, The Player takes on a more subtle presence on stage and is all the better for it. It also saves the play from the dreaded curse of ‘celebrity casting’ (not that Tim hasn’t earned his West End stripes, but you know what I mean, you get audience members coming to ‘watch Tim Curry’ instead of watch the play).

I’d also love to applaud the costume designer, whoever they may be  (____ didn’t get a programme which was a little rude), giving R+G great apparel reminicent of a classic age, but with modern edges (think Trevor Bolongaro or when All Saints does ‘military’). It’s sexy in its own way.

Another great production by Trevor Nunn!

Rating: I’d go all the way, and maybe even let the show get a little kinky!

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Posted in: Play