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Live TALK: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

Expect the unexpected. That should be the motto of Concordia International School’s theatre program. The last three productions to hit the stage have been Macbeth, Aida and now Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. On the surface there appears to be little connecting the three. Other, perhaps, than a sincere desire on the part of Director Chad Doering to discourage return performances?

This is the third production and 6th performance I’ve attended. That’s math you might want to argue with, but I admit I liked Aida and Macbeth so much one viewing just couldn’t suffice. Time constraints meant I couldn’t adopt the same multi pronged approach to R&G, but nevertheless I made sure my name had been marked in indelible ink on a seat for the penultimate performance.

For those of you not au fait with the storyline, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is an absurdist, tragicomedy (depending on who you ask… we’ll get to that) by Tom Stoppard. It expands upon the exploits of the titular characters, who are taken from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. While there are direct reenactments of scenes from Hamlet involving the two figures, the majority of R&G focuses on the protagonists’ musings from what would have been their “off stage” moments from the Shakespeare original.

I’m rather glad I’d done my homework going in. Mostly because I sounded awfully knowledgeable during the two intervals as I commented on points of existentialism, farce and art vs. reality to my neighbours, most of whom looked at me with what I feel was a profound reverence. Thankfully no rigorous examination of my shockingly loosely made arguments followed as I’d memorized only the first two paragraphs of Wikipedia’s synopsis. However, as I suggested earlier, the beauty of R&G is that it invites interpretation and challenges rigid analyses. The audience is encouraged to join the two character’s philosophical wanderings and make their own judgments.

So, easy enough to act that then, right?? Surprisingly you might think so, given the excellent performances on show. It’s high time I refrained from falling back on the usual bromides (“amazing for their age”, “acting beyond their years”) and accepted that Concordia Theatre productions and the actors within are genuinely very good in their own right.

The two leads were actually played by four actors, as each character had a shadow of himself providing his subconscious face. This was a construct designed by Concordia Theatre and worked extremely well. Given that a large proportion of stage time involves just the two leads, it would have been hard both on actor and audience had it been handled by only two actors. Furthermore, it must be said that the back and forth between the two sets (Julien Chien and Esther McLachlin as Rosencrantz, Nathalia Tavares and Michael Zhou as Guildenstern) was very sharp and offered another platform for expressing Stoppard’s witty dialogue.

Despite Mr. Doering’s best efforts, there were a number of familiar faces on show. Chien was back once more after prominent roles in Macbeth and Aida. With a whiff of a death scene in the script, Don Zheng also reappeared and again proved he’s peerless when it comes to ‘terminalising a character’. He also mastered delivery of some of the best lines on offer (“Murder, seduction, incest…what do you want?”). Other returnees included Garvin Price, Vinia Bao, Lina Pan and Sarah Bieniek. 

Zheng and Thomas Parker (as the Tragedian, Alfred) added some fantastic physical comedy to proceedings. In fact, all credit to Parker for carving up a memorable place in my memory of the show with a sum total of about two lines of dialogue.

Once again, the backstage elements of the production were outstanding, with particular praise going to the lighting crew this time. The soft backdrops and supportive shading magnified my feel for the performance and greatly enhanced it overall. Compliments to Zach Estey, Anthony Wonsono and Doering.

All round, another notch on the stage post of excellent shows!

Keep an eye on the Concordia website below for future productions.


·         Glutton for Punishment Award: Julien Chien. His body of work is now only rivaled by a combination of Clint Eastwood and Adoor Bhasi (Bollywood legend – 549 film appearances).

·         Till Death Do Us Part Award: Don Zheng. Rumour has it Don refused the role of Boromir in Lord of the Rings as he felt the death scene was underplayed.

·         The Acting Bug Award: Sarah Bienik, who valiantly fought through sickness to take the stage and was apparently one of a number who had early winter illnesses. The show must go on.

·         Best Catchphrase Award: Michael “Show Time” Zhou. Throwing those two words around with indecent recklessness, Zhou was the heartbeat of rehearsals. Or persistently confused as to the start date.

·         A Time And A Place Award: Joey Schwalbach. Never afraid to push the boundaries of what is socially acceptable. Put the ‘feel’ into feelings.

·         Devoted To Their Craft Award: The entire male cast who expressed a fearsome desire to work with heavyweight thesp Megan Fox in future productions




Anonymous's picture

 I really enjoyed the stage

 I really enjoyed the stage setup. It was simple, yet creative and colorful and was absolutely complimentary to the play, which was pointed and moving. Hats off to the young leads for memorizing all these difficult dialogs! 

Anonymous's picture

Quirky...yet surprisingly good

    I did not want to go, (because it was Stoppard) but I am so glad I did! The show was quirky but surprisingly entertaining. I loved all the death scenes, especially poor Gertrude and Claudius near the end! I also particularly enjoyed  the boat scene. Hats off to all of the actors who put hours and hours into memorizing - it was fabulous!

Anonymous's picture

RGAD Lives!

Having seen other Stoppard plays over the years, I truly wondered if Concordia could pull this one off.  After debriefing my wife before the show, I was pleased to find that she and I both just needed to relax a little and enjoy the ride.  It was a plus to have a child in the show as well. There is so much in this play worth contemplating, but while it is going on, it is sheer entertainment.  Comment should be made of the tragedian's caravan that was wheeled on and off stage and the wonderfully farcical boat stage piece for Act 3 with multiple trap doors,  What fun!

Anonymous's picture

R&G Review

The best lines were actually at intermissions. "I have no idea what they are talking about!" "At least they make you laugh!" "Maybe I should have read the cliff notes."

Brilliant, just brilliant.  The performance stays with you for a long time.


Diane Long

Anonymous's picture

Concordia Performance

I heartily agree with the reviewer's take on this most recent performance.  Stoppard is not something that just anyone can take on and I believe the Concordia Thespians did an outstanding job.  The pairing of the two main roles was inspired and really helped with the flow of a very complex play.



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