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The absurdity of federal politics: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

Katie Hryce hopes our federal politicians don’t meet the same fate as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

Rosencrantz: Getting a bit of a bore, isn’t it?

Guildenstern: A bore? 

Rosencrantz: Well…                            

Guildenstern: What about the suspense?                            

Rosencrantz: What suspense?

Tim Minchin and Toby Schmitz were an unlikely duo to summarise the political events of September 7 but thus it was. A few hours of distinctly unbated breath before Kevin Rudd conceded defeat in his home town of Brisbane, a full house of theatregoers escaped the blistering Sydney heat to see Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard’s absurdist masterpiece – an escape from the one playing nonstop on our television screens.

The peripheral characters of Shakespeare’s Hamlet being fleshed out, front and centre, is as witty as it is incomprehensible to us, and indeed to the two men themselves. Rosencrantz – or is it Guildenstern? Who’s to say? – spends a good deal of time happily flipping coins and avoiding engaging with philosophical thought. The other is ridden with anxiety and visibly drowning in rhetoric as he struggles to understand, let alone control the world around him.

Photo:, Flickr

I couldn’t help but see this as a delicious mirror to our own not-so-peripheral men of federal politics, Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd Not quite dead, though not quite alive but for never-ending bike rides or excruciatingly fake smiles. Our 2013 election campaign was on one side effortless and simple to the core and on the other flailing and confused. Both candidates for the Prime Ministership were led through a rather dull five week campaign, peppered with sexist undertones and bizarre announcements, but without a real narrative or vision. Throughout this time we remembered their pasts as they promised us a new future.

Similarly, our friends from Denmark are led through their past as the events of Hamlet that lead to their death are replayed by a group of tragedians and woven into their present and future in front of us. The genius of this play lies in its constrictive non-reality for both the characters and the audience. We cannot relax because we are not sure what is real and what is not. None of it and all of it are real, not that it matters either way. The title itself openly tells us what will happen and we know the foregone conclusion from the beginning.

This I believe was the sad reality of the 2013 election campaign. Nothing felt real and nothing mattered. Despite Kevin Rudd’s resurgence as leader of the Labor Party and the three years’ old hope it hinged on, the certainty that Tony Abbott would emerge victorious was inescapable.

So now, offstage, we wait. We wait for our Prime Minister Elect to drop a word from this title and be sworn in. We wait for Godot (or is it Albo?) to steer the Labor Party into a new place of structure and unity. We wait to see what a refreshed Liberal Party will bring to Canberra and to the people. We farewell the hollow bodies of this electoral campaign as we know them, flipping coins and remaining uncertain of the new world around us all the while.

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