“Hamlet is running late; we lost electricity a little while ago.” Or so said the two costumed fellows sitting outside the Knightsbridge Theatre under a paper-maché tree. I was immediately reminded of Waiting for Godot and wondered if these were our Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. “Anyways, it’s cooler out here than it is in there.”
It was 101 in the Valley yesterday. Eeew. I don’t know how hot it got in Glendale, but some of the traffic lights were out, blinking red forlornly.
“You really should see our Hamlet, it’s set in a women’s mental institution and Hamlet has five separate personalities. That closes next week, so hurry.”
The Rosguil poster is a bit blurry, featuring the title characters lying flat with. . . what are those on their eyes? Our first guess was cucumbers. (“The Danish at the spa, the Danish at the spa. . .” Makes lovely Nine filk, but not much sense.) Very strange shades? The moon? (Stoppard’s very fond of moon imagery, esp. in Jumpers, but the sun features more prominently in Rosguil.) Then Rachel hit on it: coins. Rather odd-looking coins, but she was right.
The Knightsbridge is a small, funky theatre with odd photos from their mostly Shakespeare repertoire in the lobby. Alison and I identified a few of them- Romeo & Juliet, Cyrano, MacB, and what may have been The Lion in Winter. Before the show started, they were playing what my dad believes was the Kinks.
The set design was interesting, obviously being used with the concurrently running Hamlet. It had three levels (think a bit like our Footloose set, only much higher between each level), the third of which connected the back wall of the stage and had separate entrances up there.
So anyways, it was a fun performance. Ros and Guil were not played by the guys we met outside, but they looked even more like Vladimir and Estragon with their bowlers and shabby clothes. Weird use of costumes throughout: the Hamlet characters’ garb tended to appear early Victorian (ish), except for Ophelia, whose dress was clearly 1930s style with pretty Art Deco piping. Hamlet himself was described by my mom as looking like “Abe Lincoln joins the Little Rascals.” He was a tall skinny fellow with a black cutaway (too big for him), a top hat and no stockings with his breeches. He was mad, more later.
The tragedians. . . well this is what I liked the least in this production. The tragedians seemed a crew of lesbian whores with the player as their pimp. All female, including Alfred with a moustache painted on and thus they traipsed about in pastel modern bustiers and white bloomers. They were good at the blood and love, but needed some work on the rhetoric. The Player was marvelous, though. He was a greasy Oscar Wilde-ish fop with a tall top hat, a limp and a pimp cane. I wasn’t quite sure if the Player was acting the limp, because he did some lovely running about, jumping in and out of the trapdoor (barrel) on the ship, and even a somersault. I doesn’t really matter, I was impressed with him.
Ros was suitably dim and Guil suitably peevish. At the points when Ros reports what Hamlet is doing, he tromped up the levels to look out the up (literally) stage exits, returned, then tromped back to check again and return. This is not as easy as it sounds, those steps were quite steep and didn’t seem very stable. Polonius had to help Ophelia down them because of her heels.
I liked the Ros and Guil quite a lot, they acted very much how I imagined them (but were not as gorgeous as Gary Oldman and Tim Roth. Mmm.) Guildenstern was especially good (although I do have a certain preference/fondness for Guil), although he did seem unmerciful when he “killed” the Player. He didn’t seem scared enough– the stage direction is “While [the Player] is dying, Guil, nervous, high, almost hysterical, wheels on the Tragedians: If we have a destiny, then so had he– and if this is ours, then that was his– and if there are no explanations for us, then let there be none for him.” This is Guil’s epiphany, the key moment. This Guil was quite bloodthirsty, it seems. It didn’t hurt the performance, although the reaction time wasn’t long enough for the tragedians there either, but it was an odd take on it.
So, I said I’d get back to Hamlet. Hamlet, apart from his very strange costume, although that also helped, was the scene-stealer in this production, rather than the Player. His madness was delightful, and I think he was considering applying for the Ministry of Silly Walks. Oh, and as he was walking with Polonius at the end of Act I, he kissed him thrice, each time he said “except my life.” Quite mad! Then, on the ship in Act III, he did this little dance routine (to the Kinks) as he switch the letters and sealed their fate.
So, at the end, with all tragedians “dead,” Ros and Guil made their farewells. Ros stepped willingly through the fourth wall and into the darkness, followed by the unfinished, unsatisfied Guil. Then, in the darkness, came some static and recorded voices of the end of Hamlet, but we never actually heard the perfectly iambic announcement “that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.” So maybe this time they got away. For their sake, I hope they did.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
Directed by Tiger Reel