Review: Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead (Furies Theatre)

furiesVenue: Blood Moon Theatre (Potts Point NSW), May 10 – 21, 2016
Playwright: Tom Stoppard
Director: Chris McKay
Cast: Amy Victoria Books, Emily Burke, Lauren Crew, Krystiann Dingas, Emilia Stubbs Grigoriou, Leofric Kingsford-Smith, Amanda Maple-Brown, Logan McArthur, David McLaughlin, Sarah Plummer
Image by Stephen Godfrey

Theatre review
There is a lot of truth in what Tom Stoppard has to say in Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead. His existential angst may not be shared by all, but his ruminations about the nature of life are as real as they are fascinating. Through a long narrative in which nothing much happens, ideas about time, memory and volition are explored at great depth, not necessarily to provide enlightenment, but for the sheer pleasure of intensive introspection. The genius of Stoppard’s writing is in the very words collated to express abstractions that exist in our minds, making matter out of ephemeral concepts by having dialogue occupy the space of theatre.

Direction by Chris McKay brings to the stage an articulate and thoughtful representation of the text’s meanings. Relying on little more than his actors’ bodies and voices (design is kept minimal, although costumes by Zjarie Paige-Butterworth are very accomplished), the poetic and philosophical qualities of the play are given resonance from beginning to end, reflecting a thorough appreciation of the material by its very able cast. Krystiann Dingas and Emilia Stubbs Grigoriou are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, both passionate and expressive, help us distil one of the densest theatrical masterpieces, to achieve a level of immersion and comprehension that is admittedly rare in iterations of Stoppard’s work. Both actors are confident, dynamic and very likeable, which is a relief considering the two-and-a-half hour duration. Also remarkable is Amanda Maple-Brown as the Player. Flamboyant and exuberant, yet astutely nuanced, her work is resolutely entertaining, with a delightful and exhilarating presence that leaves a strong impression.

Every significant male character is performed by a female actor in this rendition of Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead. How that decision affects our spectatorship is entirely subjective, but it does bring to focus the quality of parts and opportunities available to women in theatre. Plays have certainly emerged from feminist ideologies, but none have attained the reverence that titles such as this inspire in all our Western societies. To combat the persistence of the theatrical canon and the misogyny therein, gender reversal is a subversive device that serves a purpose greater than experimentation. Finding a way to exorcise patriarchy from all the old and usual suspects that refuse to go away is critical to the development of art in every civilisation. We may not be able to remove masculinity from Michelangelo’s Creation Of Adam, but we can disrupt the hegemony imposed upon us on every screen and stage.

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5 Questions with Krystiann Dingas and Emilia Stubbs Grigoriou

Krystiann Dingas

Krystiann Dingas

Emilia Stubbs Grigoriou: What are the best and what are the most difficult aspects of Ros and Guil?
Krystiann Dingas: The best aspect has been challenging myself and reaching a point in the process that I never thought I’d reach. I’ve also loved delving into this play and discovering just how much is there – being immersed in it has made me truly appreciate the ingenuity of Stoppard’s work.

The most difficult aspect has been remembering all my lines. There have been so many times I’ve turned up to a rehearsal thinking I’ve got everything down and then soon realise that I have a bit to go before I’m off book.

What do you love about Ros?
His ambition to make something happen; he spends much of the play refusing to give up on the desire to make progress. His attempts may falter or bring him back to his starting point, but he tries, and that counts. I also find those little moments when Ros tries to make Guil happy very endearing. He considers his friend’s feelings and tries to cheer him up within circumstances that make it far too easy to remain fixated on his own thoughts and emotions.

What animal would you be and why?
I would be a fox so that I can roam the lands looking fabulous – they’re such majestic creatures.

If you could put anything on stage what would it be?
A H.P Lovecraft classic – he’s a master of horror and I’d love to bring one of his great works to life.

Why theatre?
Akin to Ros and Guil, I found myself caught-up in all the action and have had no impetus to leave. Oh, and I love performing to live audiences.

Emilia Stubbs Grigoriou

Emilia Stubbs Grigoriou

Krystiann Dingas: Why Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead?
Emilia Stubbs Grigoriou: It’s actually my favourite play and I was always devasted that I could never play Ros or Guil. When our director and good friend Chris McKay came to us with the idea we couldn’t say no. The gender reversal of this play is a very interesting way to talk about the marginalisation of females/female roles in plays.

What have you loved about the process?
Working with an amazing cast and crew to create a very tricky world. I have also really loved making discoveries in the play. Reading and saying something a million times and then it finally hits you in the face. It’s quite satisfying.

If you could meet Tom Stoppard what would you say to him?
Is this a test?

What’s the most challenging aspect of running a theatre company?
Keeping many things in your mind at once, maintaining order and creating on a non existent budget..these are also the best parts in a way.

If you could spend the day with one character from literature, who would it be and why?
Oh I can’t lie, it would be Harry Potter. I want to go to Hogwarts. There I said it!

Krystiann Dingas and Emilia Stubbs Grigoriou can be seen in Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard.
Dates: 10 – 21 May, 2016
Venue: Blood Moon Theatre

5 Questions with Brendon Taylor

brendontaylorWhat is your favourite swear word?
“Godverdomme”. Or “klootzak”. Anything in a foreign language sounds much better than English and the Dutch have some great sounding swears.

What are you wearing?
An excellent, full and glossy beard thanks to Captain Fawcett’s Beard Oil (private stock).

What is love?
Love is all around me. Love is in the air. Love is a battlefield. What’s love got to do with it?

What was the last show you saw, and how many stars do you give it?
Sparrow Folk, a glam/folk duo comprised of 2 girls and their ukeleles. Check them out at www.sparrow-folk.com, they deserve all of the stars.

Is your new show going to be any good?
Definitely. Although don’t come and see it if you don’t support independent theatre, if you don’t like comedy, puns, wordplay, Oscar Wilde, enjoying yourself, or if you’re a klootzak.

Brendon Taylor is appearing in The Importance Of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde.
Show dates: 5 – 17 May, 2015
Show venue: Exchange Hotel Balmain