Production No. 387

More images from Rosencrantz & Guildenstern

Rob Kendall, director

Have you ever wondered why Rosencrantz and Guildenstern ever went to be with Hamlet at Elsinore just because they were ‘sent for’? Well Tom Stoppard did and this play was the result.

In fact it is much more than that and ‘chance’ and the gamble of life, or death, become very much the subtext of this play. R&G are sometimes confused, just as those around them are confused by the behaviour of Hamlet, however all is revealed in the end, or is it?

Stoppard’s play has Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as the main protagonists and the Shakespeare Hamlet almost as subplot. (If you’ve ever fancied playing Hamlet. you’re ok here as there aren’t so many lines). As the title suggests, the play is about the minor characters and the chances of life that bring them to where they are and this is brought to life by word play, humour and some of the actual William Shakespeare text.



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in Northampton since 1932

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Page last updated: 14/06/2012 Masque Theatre © 2012

This production is part of RSC Open Stages, a project that aims to embrace, develop and celebrate amateur theatre, re-forging the bond with the world of professional theatre.

Cast & Crew

Rosencrantz Matthew Fell
Guildenstern Robin Armstrong
The Player John Myhill
Hamlet Ste Applegate
Ophelia Naomi Blackburn
Polonius Tony Janney
Claudius Rob Kendall
Gertrude Denise Swann
Horatio Peter Collins
Ambassador Owen Warr
Soldier Peter Collins
Alfred Oliver Macken
Player-King Owen Warr
Spy 1 David Dunkley
Spy 2 Rob Kendall
Poisoner Peter Collins
Courtiers Lynette Ashton, Laura Holmes, Siobhan Mannon
Musicians Scott Blundell, Rod Clarke

Director Rob Kendall
Stage Manager Siobhan Mannon
Continuity Ingrid Heymann
Costume Clare Brittain, Kirsty O'Connor
Lighting Richard Walker, The Works
Lighting Technicians Robert Vaughan, Ian Clarke
Photographer Ian Clarke
Programme Design Tamsyn Payne
Box Office Patricia Coleman, The Works
Front of House Masque Theatre members

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
by Tom Stoppard

Robin Armstrong as Guildenstern and Matthew Fell as Rosencrantz. Photo by Ian Clarke.

Tue 17 - Sat 21 April 2012 at 7.30pm
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Sheep Street, Northampton

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

by Martin Williams

Rosencrantz: I want a good story, with a beginning, middle and end.
I’d prefer art to mirror life, if it’s all the same to you.

Rob Kendall’s production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead was an outstanding piece of theatre. It’s not an easy play to produce, and certainly a play that could very easily fall flat if not performed well; but it was performed to a very high standard indeed.

Tom Stoppard wrote this play whilst heavily under the influence of Samuel Beckett and in particular Waiting For Godot and, boy, did it show! The play has variously been labeled absurdist, existentialist and a tragicomedy. Certainly there is a theme of death running through it and anyone looking for a piece of theatre to define the term tragicomedy need look no further than this play.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern turned out to be a much funnier play than I had imagined it to be. And this is why I enjoyed it so much. The humour was brilliant, the lines were superbly delivered and without exception the acting was outstanding. And yet it all ends so tragically with the death of our two heroes who had made us laugh so much throughout the evening.

I thoroughly enjoyed every performance in this play but I was particularly impressed by the central performances of Mathew Fell as Rosencrantz and Robin Armstrong as Guildenstern. They are basically two clown-like figures. But these were clowns with ideas far above their limited intellectual stations. They begin some highly interesting philosophical discussions but never seem capable or willing to follow any of their thoughts through to a satisfactory conclusion.

Though dressed in similar costumes, Matthew Fell and Robin Armstrong presented very different characterisations yet it was easy to see why these two absurd characters were such firm friends.

Ultimately they were both as gullible and slow witted as each other. Robin Armstrong’s strong but bone dry delivery of his lines at times had me in stitches. For instance, after an initial chat with Hamlet: “I think we can say we made some headway”. Or when they encounter Hamlet dragging the dead Polonius across the stage – a scene which, as theatrical surrealism goes, must be right up there – having just resolutely determined to halt the prince in his steps they proceed to watch as the silent prince drags the body past them and they raise not a finger to stop him. Guildenstern says: “There’s a limit to what two people can do.” This line was superbly delivered, as was Matthew Fell’s hurt indignation when he enquired of Hamlet: “Take you me for a sponge my lord?”

The entrance of the troupe of actors brings the first instance of our two friends losing their identities as Rosencrantz introduces himself as Guildenstern and has to be corrected by his friend. This is repeated during the course of the play.

The introduction of the travelling actors brings John Myhill onto the stage as the Player, the leader of the most motley troupe possible. And what a fine performance he gave. I enjoyed many scenes during the course of the evening but the scenes with all the Players and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were the most captivating.

Ultimately it’s the word play that make this drama so enjoyable and the sharp dialogue that is fired from the hip by Rosencrantz , Guildenstern and the Player.

Oliver Macken made a brilliant and Alfred. Owen Warr, David Dunkley and Peter Collins were wonderful to watch and contributed enormously to the night’s entertainment. Tony Janney was perfectly cast as Polonius, as were Denise Swann and Rob Kendall as Gertrude and Claudius respectively.

As usual with Masque productions, the costumes were excellent. Well done to Clare Brittain and Kirsty O’Conner. The lighting worked a treat and the empty set was all that was needed for such an absurd and existentialist piece of theatre.

Congratulations to Rob Kendall on a perfectly directed and very fine production. This was a play that was very well suited to the confines of the Holy Sepulchre and it worked superbly by being performed in the round but when Rosencrantz said at one point: “Which way did we come in? I’ve lost my sense of direction” I couldn’t help but sympathise.