Review: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

BEN MIDDLETON is impressed by the level stage but very little else in this under-rehearsed production.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Pembroke New Cellars, 24th-28th November.


I’m not in the habit of attaching half-stars to my reviews; they’re for pussies. ”Oh but I can’t possible rate this out of fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive,” drones our moronic Cambridge reviewer, drunk on the alcoholic semen that comes from their semen-breath-Nick-Griffin-power-trip they get from being able to go and watch plays for free and think people actually give a shit about what they write, ”It’s just somewhere in the space betweeeeeeen a two and a threeeeeeee.” Bull-fucking-shit.

A message to the cast here, who gave me too many nervous glances on-stage and I think I caught them peeking through the wings once as I was scrawling in pencil on my programme ‘OH MY GOD HAMLET MAKES ME WANT TO DIE’: it doesn’t matter that a reviewers here, and it really doesn’t matter what I think! You’re on stage, and if you don’t enjoy it, if you’re not caught up in the theatre you create, the audience will not enjoy it either.

Not that this could have saved this production of Sir Tom’s existentialist masterpiece which was sorely under-rehearsed, bizarrely over performed, and completely miss-understood. Like a ham sandwich without the sandwich I’ve written next to one performer who I’m not going to name. There’s no point.

So let’s take the plus points: the stage was level and the lights were switched on. That’s the half a star right there. Unfortunately the actors didn’t seem to know what they were supposed to do when they were on the admittedly very level stage. No-one had a clue about where they were supposed to stand, sit, walk or (heaven forbid) actually direct a line.

The lack of direction, blocking, and base-understanding of the text was so chronic that some of the funniest Stoppardian text fell so flat that it rested nicely on the very level stage. Peter Skidmore and Harry Baker’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern skipped huge chunks, lost punch lines, tonelessly delivered much of the call-back humour that Stoppard uses so brilliantly, and failed to engage the audience from the start.

Nevertheless R & G don’t need to carry the show. I really believe that the play lives and dies by the quality of the Hamlet cast so crucial are the moments of verse to the development of the dynamic between Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Now the strongest actor appeared here Rhian Lewis. Gertrude was, at least, realised. She also had a fantastic tonal quality to her voice; I enjoyed listening to each of her three lines. Unfortunately the only thing that can be said about Claudius was that compared to Hamlet he was relatively inoffensive. That’s not a good thing for a Claudius. We will not speak of Hamlet here. We need never speak of this Hamlet again.

The point, I guess, is that everyone involved knows this was bad. The Pembroke New Cellars were nearly full though, testament to the number of really good friends that the cast must have. No-one else will want to see this. I just hope that too many friendships aren’t ruined by the end of the run remember they are trying. I just wished they enjoyed it more.