Chapter, Cardiff, Tues 14 Feb 2012, 8pm, £4 on the door
The Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea, Wed 15 Feb 2012, 7.30pm, £4
The Riverfront, Newport, Thurs 16 Feb 2012, 7.45pm, £4
Rosencrantz – Aled Herbert
Guildenstern – Jonathon Holcroft
The Player, Claudius – Gary Knowles
Hamlet – Tom Mumford
Polonius – Michael Kelligan
Ophelia, Gertrude – Bethan Morgan
For the first play in this year’s “On The Edge” season Michael Kelligan chose Tom Stoppard’s” Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead”. This play opened at the Edinburgh Fringe festival in 1966 and is sporadically produced nowadays. Tom Stoppard was the king of the British theatre scene for the following twenty years. an impressive feat for someone born in Czechoslavakia. While Alan Ayckbourn dominated the “cosier” world of suburban life Stoppard was more intellectual. He is capable of the killer one-liner but you have to earn the laughs by following the often compex plots and thought-processes within.
This play follows the characters who appear intermittently throughout “Hamlet”, so an understanding of that play is extremely handy. We were very fortunate that having seen Michael Sheen’s stunning performance in the title role last month, the plot was fresh in our minds. Other members of the audience were less lucky. A lot of people I knew struggled to follow what was happening, especially the opening over-wordy sequence which sent the gentleman to my right into a noisy sleep. He failed to return for the second half and there were other noticeable gaps after the interval.
“On The Edge” was founded in 2004 to produce drama for audiences with few theatrical frills, concentrating mainly on the text with the actors using the script when necessary. It is a credit to the performers and the playwright that almost immediately you forget it is not a fully staged production. The acting is of a high order, especially from Jon Holcroft and Aled Herbert in the title roles. From an audience persepective, this was a long evening. Modern plays are generally (“Jerusalem” excluded) getting shorter and shorter. I feel this production could have benefitted from an earlier start and cutting of some of the wordier less plot driven scenes. A 10.30pm end on a Tuesday was too late.
Overall, though it was still good to see this over-looked play being given an airing in Cardiff. And for £4 “On The Edge” again provides astonishing value for money.