Last autumn ETC decided we’d do three different productions in 2018 and I was asked to produce and direct the main play to be staged in May. I chose it because it’s a very funny, entertaining and thought -provoking play. Tom Stoppard has written some great plays, and this was his first that won major awards. It’s very well known and is often performed. And it’s just one of those plays that’s great fun to do, too.
We always want to perform good plays by well-known authors that will appeal to our audience. Other considerations are how to cast it and to give all members of the company a fair share of the acting parts. We try to spread it out over the year, so that if someone has a large part in one production, they play a smaller role in another. There are twelve characters altogether in the play.
R&G is particularly rewarding to direct because I spend a lot of time working in-depth with just three actors who play the main characters. This means that the process is very creative.
What’s the play about?
It’s a comedy about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two minor characters in Hamlet, and what they get up to when they aren’t directly involved in Shakespeare’s action. They are old school friends of Hamlet’s and have been mysteriously summoned to spy on him by his uncle, the King of Denmark. One is amiable and bewildered, the other a brainy clever-clogs. The audience travels with them as they blunder and blend into scenes in the Hamlet story; then come out the other side with a poignant awareness of their own mortality, yet still comically bewildered.
How well do you know the play?
Very well indeed. I played Rosencrantz in a very good production over 40 years ago. I love the play and have seen it several times over the years. I was sorry to miss the recent production at The National Theatre in London with Daniel Radcliffe as Rosencrantz. It had good reviews. I like him as a stage actor and thought he was great in Equus.
Rosencrantz is being played as a woman, why’s that?
Two main reasons. Maggie Crane is ideal for the part: she is a very funny actor and has the skills to do it. Secondly, there’s no reason why Rosencrantz shouldn’t be a woman. She provides a good balance to Guildenstern (played by Phil Faiers) and the Player (David Allcock), and it adds to the relationship between them.
How far into rehearsals are you?
We began working on the production over six months ago because there’s so much planning and preparation to do apart from rehearsing. It’s mid-March now and we’re in week seven of rehearsals. By the time we get to the first performance the cast will have put in over 1300 hours of rehearsal time between them. And that doesn’t include time spent learning lines or travelling to and from the rehearsal hall, which is over an hour away for some people.
How would you sum up what you do?
We try to do everything in the best possible way. It’s a real team effort with very high production values. Everybody works their socks off for months. I think our public get a very good 10 euros’ worth!