EFR - Reviews of Ros & Guil R Dead

Ros & Guil R Dead

Fri 5th – Sat 20th August 2016

reviews

Emma Taylor

at 09:52 on 13th Aug 2016

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‘Ros and Guil R Dead’ is, essentially, a good reproduction of Stoppard’s ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead’. The title suggests an edgy, ultramodern version of the Shakespeare-esque classic, and this, even with the appearance of a couple of iPhones, never really materialises, leaving one to wonder what the aim of the risqué ‘R’ in the title was. That aside, it is a competent performance.

It is well-paced and well-acted. Rachel Skyer as Guildenstern is particularly impressive, with a superb range of facial expressions and acting that is fluid in moving between frustration, hope and despair. Any production of ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead’ needs a great bond between the two leads, and this box here is ticked, if not amazingly. The two provide good openings for each other, and the wittiness of the script is allowed to flourish.

Energetic performances should also be noted from the Players; Alfred (played by Filius Mihail) in particular provides wonderful comic value with a touching gormlessness. A slight disappointment here was Tom Fyans's Hamlet. Part of the anticipation in seeing a Hamlet is in seeing the way the actor interprets the madness inherent in the character, and Fryan's lacked any substance here.

The show does also remain fairly true to the original, although, as previously mentioned, there does seem to be confusion as to the aim of Blunt Pyramid’s regeneration of the classic. The title promises a very modern take, as did the description, yet this promise remains undelivered. In fact, the production seems to be confused as to which era they were set in at times – modern phones and suits seemed to suggest the present day, yet the Player’s film of Hamlet’s father’s death suggested otherwise, being a silent film reminiscent of the 1920s. Although clearly meant to be a comic element, the actually comedy came from the purposeful over-egged performers of the actors, not the silent quality of the film (complete with classical orchestral backtrack), leaving this reviewer unsure of the purpose of making it as such. The typical screens portraying the speech, although clearly meant to be bad for comic value, were slightly embarrassing – think three exclamation marks (!!!) and childish, predictable lines (‘Evil Plan’, capitals the original). This aside, the film itself is hilarious. A particular annoyance – although an easily solvable one – was the overloud sound effects which jarred; a phone ringing in a character's pocket shook through the small venue and made the technical side seem slightly amateur.

It is a good performance, built upon the solid foundations of competent acting. The sparkle in the show, however, comes not from Blunt Pyramid but from Stoppard’s exquisite script and thought-provoking scenes, and it is this, perhaps, which carries an otherwise fairly standard show.

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Ed Grimble

at 21:55 on 13th Aug 2016

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What on earth is wrong with the title ‘Rosencrantz and Guildernstern Are Dead’? That is the question that still bothers this reviewer when assessing Blunt Pyramid’s adaptation of Stoppard’s play- first performed at the Edinburgh Fringe 50 years ago. What the group deliver is actually a very competent staging of what can prove a difficult play for both actor and audience. It is just a shame that some unnecessary ‘modern twists’ stand out as being so annoyingly contrived.

The two leads, Paul Burton and Rachel Skyer, playing Rosencrantz and Guildernstern respectively, are fabulously suited to their roles. Their onstage relationship is brilliant: the perfect combination of hapless frivolity, and pared back, monotonous Beckettian toing and froing. It is clear that the pair understand that restraint in these roles allows Stoppard’s wonderful dialogue the room that it demands. Indeed, the black box staging, with very minimal set and props, exacerbates this; the spatial lacunae mean that the audience can concentrate on the words spoken without the distraction of onstage paraphernalia. This is not to say that Burton and Skyer succeed because they play the roles meekly, but they certainly are careful and delicate.

In a play so dominated by its two protagonists, the supporting cast are in danger of needing to fight for attention. They, however, give commendable performances. The Players (John Slade and Filius Mihail) embrace their roles with flamboyance and bombast, while Tom Fyans’ Claudius is faultless. One foot in front of the other is all Fyans needs to control the stage- his height and physical presence help here. It is unfortunate, however, that when Fyans also takes the role of Hamlet he misses the mark by some distance. There is a contrived and incredulous zeal to his acting which is incongruous with not only his fellow cast members- but also his own performance as Claudius.

All in all, this is a deft handling of a twentieth century classic of the stage. The cast really do understand what is needed to execute Stoppard’s script and, even if elements of their performance do miss the mark, Blunt Pyramid should be commended for their efforts. “Words, words. They're all we have to go on.”

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