Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
New Zealand Herald Review 30 April 2001


'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead' at the Maidment


MAIDMENT THEATRE, Auckland - In telling the behind-the-scenes story of two of Hamlet's most minor characters, Tom Stoppard wrote a devastatingly witty play on the meaning of life - and death.

Director Colin McColl has matched the verbal pyrotechnics with a supremely elegant and spare production that moves with dazzling clarity through a complex maze of philosophical speculations and wordplay.

The vaudevillian double act of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the coarse melodramatics of the grungey band of wandering players and the swirling and strutting of members of Elsinore's court are brilliantly contrasted, while gathered into a seamless tapestry of a world that is at once strange and also familiar.

John Parker's set of grey marble slabs, which is imaginatively and subtly lit by Bryan Caldwell, provides a place that is the ultimate waiting room where action is always imminent.

With its hidden traps, doors and windows, it can also be transformed into a ship on the high seas, the scene of a pirate attack, when strobe lighting is for once used to stunning effect.



Elizabeth Whiting's costumes combine Elizabethan and modern elements, principally in black, white and grey apart from the gaudy players, to provide striking, but never overwhelming, indices of character and status.

The strong cast of 12 works superbly as an ensemble. Michael Hurst shines as the Player. Resisting the obvious interpretation of a plummy actor/manager of the old "blood, love and rhetoric school," he is a gritty, spunky street philosopher and "comic pornographer."

In a workman's leather jacket and motley tights, he hauls on a fag while delivering with relish and immaculate comic timing pearls of wit and wisdom.

Oliver Driver's height and lugubrious disposition as Guildenstern stand in hilarious counterpoint to Craig Parker's sparky but insecure and rather small Rosencrantz.

They bring to mind comic duos such as Laurel and Hardy or Morecambe and Wise, who are intensely competitive and fated never to succeed.

Joel Tobeck's Hamlet is decidedly more manipulative than mad, though he feigns insanity with wild aplomb.

Members of the court are beautifully aristocratic and the tragedians blend pathos and comedy to fine effect.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

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