Having played one of two or three men dressed in rags chained to the floor for two hours, I know what it’s like to have a lot of lines and few props. Lewis Baird and Abbie McIntosh, bringing life to the lead characters of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, have a lot of lines with not a lot of sense (in the absurdist tragicomedy at the Turret Theatre this week) so their challenge is even greater. Fortunately they not only have a great memory for them but also the charming youthful bewilderment that aids their delivery in this terribly bewildering play.
My theatre companions loved it but I personally don’t like absurdist drama. I like a play with meaning and I resist the kind of meaningless repetition in Tom Stoppard’s script because I find it excruciating. It makes me feel like all the times I’ve waited for annoying boyfriends to change their annoying behaviour (spoiler alert: they never do) or all the times I’ve cared for people with dementia and had the same conversation over and over again. I just can’t stand it.
And neither can Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (interchangeable in this play). And maybe that’s the point. So I knew what I was letting myself in for; and while I can’t say that I was really into it, I also can’t say that I didn’t get something out of it. But what that is, is anyone’s guess. What I do know is that The Player, Hilary Lynas, as always, shone. And her poor Players, Adam Cooper, Chris Dunn and Patricia Leeson, adapted themselves (indeed contorted themselves) into their sundry situations hilariously.
Claudius, Gertrude and Polonius (Robert Benison, Elaine Martin and Jillian Vincent, respectively) have a difficult role in that their characters lack the comic appeal of the above-mentioned actors and yet must not eclipse the aloof gravity of Hamlet (played magnificently by Andrew Henderson). Theirs is the dialogue that should make most sense but, presented piecemeal, sounds most ridiculous. They all walked this theatrical tightrope very well.
A good stage manager’s work is not only never done but also invisible and such was the case with Gillian Monroe’s, ably co-ordinated with her sound and lighting colleagues, Robbie Soutar (kudos for the unexpected selection) Michael Hand and Ian Atherton. The set, basically a black diorama curtain, was suitably minimal but I did like the chessboard floortiling – foregrounding that it’s all a game (with apparently no rules) as Sheila Todd’s semi-adjustable costuming showed that, dressed in rags or riches, the play’s the thing.
Even if it really doesn’t make any sense.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, at the Turret Theatre, Kirkintilloch, runs till Saturday 4th May 2019. Tickets: http://www.kirkintillochplayers.co.uk/tickets/