Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Norwich

CHARLES ROBERTS This is director's theatre, imbued with qualities which suggest supremely confident pencil and gouache drawings come to life.

CHARLES ROBERTS

This Clwyd Theatr Cymru production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is something special, a brilliant script powered and visualised by an outstanding director. For truly this is director's theatre, imbued with qualities which suggest supremely confident pencil and gouache drawings come to life.

All is clean in line and action, vocal, physical and visual. Every facet is purposefully judged and interpreted, even when comic mayhem appears to rule.

Playwright Tom Stoppard may laugh at himself and his theatrical craft – “To be kept intrigued without ever quite being enlightened”. But in director Terry Hands' embrace, there is enlightenment at every turn, deftly mixed with exuberant comedy (for this is a play veined with laughter) and exhilarating visual imagery.

One notes, without surprise, that Mr Hands himself is also responsible for the lyrical lighting. Johan Engels' set design works with him with inspired simplicity, a wooden O of white-painted planking which effortlessly invites and receives the audience's imaginative involvement.

In Oliver Ryan and Christian Patterson, we have a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to treasure. No duo, till death them do part, could be more different. Both, we may accept, are young officers. Guildenstern is comfortably built, well turned out, so in charge until the pressure leans on him, and Patterson, out of comedy, brings desperation and pain.

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Ryan's Rosencrantz is thinly angular, a latter-day Shakespearian clown, grubby and crumpled, with huge eyes of comic incomprehension and the face of a bloodhound desperate to please. What both interpretations have in common is total control, and a sense of inter-relationship which is enchantingly funny and, ultimately, deeply moving.

The players and their “king” and the real King and his court, bringing human inconstancy to their white-planked world, are melded together in loving detail, completing an evening of warmly recommended theatre .

t Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead continues at Norwich's Theatre Royal until Saturday May 11. Box office: 01603 630000.

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