Review by Carolyn Watts
“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead”
Balmoral Beach Rotunda, Weekends, 15 January 28 February.
The Bard on the Beach are back for their fifth season at Balmoral and this season is extraordinary. From this weekend until the end of February, theatregoers and lovers of Shakespeare are being served a feast in two courses (on different days)—‘Hamlet’ and ‘Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead’. Last night’s performance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern was a riveting delivery of Stoppard’s absurdist mix of wit and wisdom. This play within a play within a tightly constructed deconstruction of existential questions and funny answers has the audience laughing out loud from the very first scene, built on the deceptively simple premise of a game of Heads and Tails.
Rosencrantz (Tim Van Zuylen) quickly wins our hearts with his beguiling act of happy simpleton while Guildenstern (Josh Wiseman) expertly turns our minds to deeper thoughts of what’s chance and what’s pre-destined in life. Both excellent exponents of their craft, each actor’s energetic, enthusiastic performance proves them perfectly cast as foils for each other’s character. The play’s anchors, they sustain our fascination with the narrative that draws us in to examine ‘Hamlet’ through the commentary by these two minor characters from that play. First staged at Edinburgh Fringe Festival fifty years ago this August, R & G made Tom Stoppard an overnight sensation; this is an excellent adaptation and singly appropriate for the Rotunda stage.
Director, Patricia Rowling, has drawn faultless performances from the entire cast, from Martin Estridge and his band of ‘players’ who demonstrate early and often their capacity to die theatrical deaths, to Hamlet’s (Chenier Moore) mix of madness and guile, the performers are all tournament fit. The beachside location, where waves beat a lazy tattoo as the sun gives up for the day, encourages the laying out of picnic blankets and easy chairs and delivers a uniquely holiday air under Sydney skies. Equally unique is these professional actors asking no ticket price but only a $20pp donation at the conclusion of the performance.
Sundays—7pm, Friday and Saturday—8pm. No bookings, BYO blanket or chair.