and Guildenstern are Dead - Stoppard's exploration of two minor
characters from Hamlet - is in turns postmodern, absurd, witty,
and tragic. This Coin Toss production performed at the intimate
O'Reilly Theatre (Keble College) succeeds in presenting these opposing
aspects within the play.
rapport between the two leads is excellent, with quick fire dialogue
and some inventive use of the stage. Sam Sampson's Rosencrantz is
suitably gormless with Guildenstern's (Rick Merrick) frustration
well-expressed with some exceptionally exasperated facial contortions.
The actors both compliment and counterpoint each other, and complete
some fabulous set pieces of physical comedy.
the characters struggle to come to terms with the fact that are
indeed characters, they make long, unnerving pauses
around for someone to come on and relieve them of their Beckettian
waiting. Often that relief comes from the Player and his band of
tragedians. The Player (as excellently depicted by Colin Burnie)
is a self-conscious acTOR. He fills the stage with luvvy vowels
and melodramatic gestures and is an invigorating force. However
other intrusions prove a little more disjunctive. The random costumes
of the Elsinore characters and odd Goth Hamlet strike a peculiar
chord in an otherwise well thought-out production. The lighting
in particular is worthy of note - the changes in Act 2 replicate
the "certain brownness at the edges of the day", and foreshadow
the black turn the language takes with the saturation of gallows
humour in Act 3.
play is a masterpiece - poignant, searching, hysterical. As Guildenstern
exclaims at one point: "Words, words. They're all we have to
go on". Stoppard's exceptional script is in itself a lot to
go on; this thoughtful production enriches and enlivens it for the