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and Guildenstern are two very minor characters in Shakespeare's
Hamlet. Old school friends of Hamlet, they are asked by his uncle,
the King, to establish the cause of the Danish prince's strange
behaviour. They are then sent to accompany Hamlet to the English
court, bearing a sealed letter that is Hamlet's death warrant. Hamlet
cunningly forges a replacement letter, sealing the doom of his treacherous
Stoppard's play focuses on these peripheral characters, fancifully
speculating on where they came from and what they do when offstage.
Lifted from Elizabethan tragedy into twentieth-century theatre of
the absurd, they are trapped in a bizarre theatrical game whose
rules they don't understand and that leads inexorably to their deaths.
of philosophical musings and erudite wit, the play is marked by
an Alice in Wonderland mood of the bizarre coupled with the logical.
It might be seen as an extended discussion of the nature of the
theatre, as well as a meditation on the inevitability of death.
It is also an affectionate homage to one of the greatest plays in
the English language. Yet despite such serious themes, it is great
fun, although perhaps occasionally hard to follow if you're not
already at least a little familiar with Hamlet, whose plot and characters
form the background to the play.
clever, unusual and challenging work is excellently interpreted
by the talented cast and crew of the English Touring Theatre.