Co-director David Sear tells us about his experience directing Tom Stoppard's legendary play.

‘The toenails, on the other hand…’

It’s just hilarious.

As a slightly pretentious person with a penchant for philosophical reflection the temptation to be seduced by the existential musings of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (and all) in this wonderful play are almost overwhelming. Every page tempts you and every line leads you on… The process of rehearsing it may have caused permanent damage to my lower lip, as I bit it to avoid talking at length about the Meaning Of Life… oh dear… (oh no!) you may rightly think… Thankfully, Tom Stoppard provides a stern warning to any prospective producer of the play (in an author’s note to the acting edition) where he reflects that ‘Quite a lot of solemn and scholarly stuff has been written about it, which is fine and flattering, but it is worth bearing in mind that among the productions staged all over the world, two were comparative failures, and both of these took the play very seriously indeed.’

Photo by Paul Ashley Photography

We decided very early on that aiming squarely for the comedy – even if we didn’t always succeed, because you can’t, always – would steer us right to the very heart of the play: whether to be or not to be really is the question and indeed how you know when you are not… See, there I go again. I just can’t resist the wonderful angst of it all. But in my defence there is something profoundly hilarious about this comedy about ‘two of the minor characters from Hamlet’ (that’s Tom being modest again). It’s a profundity which will no doubt continue to attract the scholarly, and like Hamlet, allow it to continue to earn its place amongst the best plays ever written. But whatever it is, isn’t or might be, Tom is right. It certainly doesn’t have to be and positively shouldn’t be solemn.

Photo by Paul Ashley Photography

There is something magical about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and not just the disappearing people (which provided for some very interesting production and design meetings… and you can be the judge of our success). It captures the imagination of people who see it or study it and (like Lesley) live with it as a part of their lives, because it reverberates around your head, forever, as a tragi-comic commentary on the nature of existence, or nonexistence.

Photo by Paul Ashley Photography

It is a play that can have you laughing at the toss of a coin and then ‘Death is not anything – death is not – It’s the absence of presence; nothing more – the endless time of never coming back – a gap you can’t see, and when the wind blows through it, it makes no sound…’.

It’s been a privilege to direct it with a friend who loves the play with a passion, and for whom it has been a significant part of her life. Lesley and this wonderful cast and crew have now made it a major part of mine.

‘Get your skirt on, Alfred’.

David Sear

You can hear from Lesley Ford, the other co-director of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, in the first of our blog series here. Or hear from the show's design team here.

Performances run from Tuesday 27 September to Saturday 1 October at the ADC Theatre. Tickets are on sale now from