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27 November 2014
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April 2003
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead - review
Antonia Reed-Felstead
Actors in this hilarious play.
Rebecca Ting sees that the Oxford Theatre Guild are a talented company we see all take time to investigate.
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Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead
March 27-29
The Playhouse

By Rebecca Ting

The Director’s programme notes are painfully conscious of Stoppard’s desire for the play to be "a comedy first and foremost", which is not "taken too seriously". Indeed, by not taking it too seriously, The Oxford Theatre Guild’s production of ‘Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead’ is accessible, gripping, and at times riotously funny.

The play examines the world of Hamlet from the point of view of the two attendant lords, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, moving them from peripheral roles as puppets of the usurping king, to complex and appealing characters, who question and attempt to understand their situation.

Alex Nicholls’ wonderfully camped-up Rosencrantz and Matt Addis’ frustrated and philosophical Guildenstern are superb, compelling their audience to share in the ridiculous situation in which they find themselves ensnared. The parts of Hamlet and The Player are also well acted, but other supporting roles – particularly The Court - are slightly disappointing, failing to make the portions of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (the vital structural framework for the play), demand the audience’s attention.

This being said, the physical comedy is perfect, heightened by incidental music reflecting the building melodrama. A versatile and cleverly designed set conveys a variety of locations, from a country road to a ship, allowing Stoppard’s stage directions to be followed "to a T" – including the improbable appearance of six tragedians from a small barrel!

All in all, the effect is witty, exciting and vibrant – convincing, yet certainly not ‘taken too seriously’.

Stoppard would approve.

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