Directed by Patricia Rowling
Bard on the Beach
Balmoral Beach Band Rotunda
Season: 16 January – 28 February (On Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights)
Bookings: Ticket purchase is through a donation given on the night (recommended $20 minimum)
For more information: www.bardonthebeach.net
Click here to read an interview with the actors!
It’s bizarre that a story underlined so heavily with death and existential musings can be so very funny. Stoppard masters this approach in his renowned play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, circumventing an audience’s prior knowledge of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and telling the lesser-known story of the play’s relatively negligible characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Patricia Rowling’s Bard on the Beach production encapsulates the elements laid out by Stoppard in the text wonderfully, provoking bewilderment, laughter, and reflection.
Crucial to this tale is the casting and dynamics of its protagonists - Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to bring clarity to a frequently confounding entanglement of dialogue. Tim van Zuylen and Josh Wiseman take on these respective roles, and whilst their characters often get mixed up as to their identity (a well-known trait of the play, emphasising their insignificance in the grand scheme of things) each actor brings distinction to his role, with colourful personality. Stoppard’s text sets a quick-fire pace for the dialogue exchange and is laden with repetition. This is notably difficult, and sometimes proves a challenge for the actors in developing authentic thought-driven responses in a fast exchange. However the pace is successfully maintained throughout the show, never allowing the audience to disengage from the action before them. Van Zuylen reads the audience well, tapping into precise comic timing and interacting with us often, with humorous results. Wiseman engages well with the existentialist themes, exhibiting marked change in his realisation as Guildenstern of how their action, or inaction, has played into their doomed fate. This shift conveyed helps to drive home a more poignant tone to accompany the comedy. In addition to the protagonists, there are also great performances by some of the actors with a little less stage time. Joanne Coleman evokes Ophelia’s tragedy in just a few snapshots of action effectively, and Adam Garden gives a string of hilarious cameo performances as the pitiful Alfred, a travelling minstrel.
It is undoubtedly atmospheric seeing live theatre near the foreshore of the ocean, and it isn’t too often that companies put themselves at the risk of the elements to perform their art. Bard on the Beach’s concept for performance is a winner, pairing a splendid evening outdoors with some splendid theatre. This play seems to reinforce our smallness as humans, flurrying in redundant self-importance through a predestined course in life, which will inevitably end in finite terms. This could be considered a grim outlook. If we choose to embrace an existentialist view to our lives, I think we’ll need a whole lot of comedy to sustain us – this show gives us just that.