Review: Rosencrantz and Guildernstern

GEORGE JOHNSTON: ‘I loved every minute.’ What a shame it was in Cambridge for one night only.

ADC Benjamin Blyth Ross McGregor Tom Harthill Venetia Twigg

 Wednesday 5th, 7.30 at The Mumford Theatre. £12 (£10 concs).

Before I start I would like to make it clear to the reader that I do not ask my friends existential questions about whether we exist or not, or what happens when we die over lunch. Neither do I have the kind of in-depth knowledge of Hamlet required to properly appreciate all of the intricacies of a play like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. The production at the Anglia Ruskin Mumford Theatre was, however, of such a high standard, regardless, I loved every minute. Indeed, it typified the difference between professional and student theatre.

Opening with Jimi Hendrix’s cover of ‘All Along The Watchtower’ the audience were treated to some extremely slick and well-practiced coin tossing from Guildenstern across the stage to Rosencrantz. This high standard of physicality was kept up by the cast throughout the rest of the play, particularly in the ensemble scenes that were effectively choreographed to music and even evoked a patter of applause from the audience.

Benjamin Blyth as Guildenstern was balanced superbly by Tom Harthill as Rosencrantz. The former played the eternally curious protagonist, who spouts lines of argument and tutorial examples when contemplating his fate. The later should be commended for his comic timing and ability to command our attention, while essentially playing a bumbling fool who has trouble remembering his own name. In the programme both actors mull over the problem of providing ‘character’ to a character that we know so little about. Clearly despite the difficulties posed by the script they have succeeded.

Artistic Director Ross McGregor is not afraid of adding his own stamp to the production. Blyth’s unsettling stroll through the seating during Rosencrantz’s monologue keeps the audience pleasantly unsettled while the Pirates of the Caribbean parody at the end is well choreographed without seeming like it is cheaply playing for laughs. Venetia Twigg as ‘The Player’ also deserves a mention for her consistently convincing performance as the leader of her troupe.

Granted, this production did clearly have certain advantages in terms of budget. The set, described in the programme rather pompously as ‘the ruins of a proscenium theatre’, was great while the costumes were all fantastic.  The dry ice that was on stage throughout the show helped sustain the air of tension and suspense as to where Rosencrantz and Guildenstern where and what on earth they were doing.

Without a student card an ADC Mainshow at the weekend actually is £9 and so at £10 a ticket this wasn't far off.  The quality of the show was, however, far far higher.