Reviewd: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at Progress Theatre

Published: 19 Oct 2012 08:300 comments

Two men in limbo, surrounding by doors they cannot open. A boyish betting game - tossing a coin - sparks a disjointed musing on the nature of probabilities, chance and life itself. Hamlet strides through, bemasked and head buried in a book of verse, and travelling players bring a dark, disturbing air to the proceedings.

Progress' stage setting, a near-empty room with doors coming off it, is apt - a waiting room for Rosencrantz and Guldenstern (or is it Guildenstern and Rosencrantz?).

The pair are characters from Shakespeare's Hamlet, and their tale intersects with scenes from the Bard's piece, a device which is a little confusing at first, but adds some structure to the narrative for those familiar with the play.

The script, a dazzle of wordplay, philosophical musings, melodrama and melancholy, interspersed with mime and snatches of Shakespeare, takes the pair, played by regular Progress double-act Christopher Hoult and Craig Daniels through a surreal world where nothing - not even their own names - can be taken as fact. The band of licentious wandering players they encounter, led by the vivacious Player (Lauren Gilbert) dispense a hilarious and sharp mime sequence early on, and elsewhere the troupe's chilling, zombie-like state creates an unsettling backdrop as R & G become more baffled by the events which unfold around them.

Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead isn't a difficult play, as director Glynn Oram assures us in the programme. But it does require a certain relaxed attitude - second-guessing and searching for solid threads of reason won't get you very far here. Luckily we're quite happy to follow Rosencrantz and Guildenstern on their surreal journey to nowhere.

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