Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard
Adapted for radio by Tom Stoppard, directed by Peter Kavanagh, with original music composed and realised by Nicolai Abrahamsen.
As part of BBC Radio's celebration of the playwright's 70th birthday, Andrew Lincoln and Danny Webb star in Stoppard's new adaptation of his celebrated play. First staged at the Edinburgh Festival when the playwright was an unknown 29 year old, the play is famously set simply 'within and around the action of Hamlet' and has since been widely admired for its verbal wit and dramatic ingenuity, becoming a contemporary classic of British theatre.
The play concerns the misadventures and musings of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two minor characters from William Shakespeare's Hamlet who are friends of the Prince, focusing on their actions while the events of Hamlet occur as background. In Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are used by the king in an attempt to discover Hamlet's motives and to plot against him. Hamlet, however, mocks them derisively and outwits them, so that they, rather than he, are killed in the end. Thus, from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's perspective, the action in Hamlet is largely nonsensical.
The two characters, brought into being within the puzzling universe of the play by an act of the playwright's creation, often confuse their names, as they have generally interchangeable yet periodically unique identities. They are portrayed as two clowns or fools in a world that is beyond their understanding; they cannot identify any reliable feature or the significance in words or events. Their own memories are not reliable or complete and they misunderstand each other as they stumble through philosophical arguments while not realizing the implications to themselves.
After the two characters witness a performance of The Murder of Gonzago — the story within a story in the play Hamlet — they find themselves on a boat taking prince Hamlet to England with the troupe that staged the performance. During the voyage, they are ambushed by pirates and lose their prisoner (Hamlet) before resigning themselves to their fate.
As with many of Tom Stoppard's works, the play has a love for cleverness and language. It treats language as a confounding system fraught with ambiguity.
Rosencrantz ...... Danny Webb
Guildenstern ...... Andrew Lincoln
Player ...... Desmond Barrit
Polonius ...... John Rowe
Ophelia ...... Abigail Hollick
Gertrude ...... Liza Sadovy
Claudius ...... Simon Treves
Hamlet ...... John Dougall
Ambassador ...... Jot Davies
Horatio ...... Anthony Glennon