Theatre Review: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Old Vic, London via Odeon)

Theatre Review

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Written by Tom Stoppard • Directed by David Leveaux

Old Vic, London (via Odeon, Braehead)



Fifty years after its premiere at the Old Vic in London, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead has returned to the same stage. This play first made a name for the playwright Tom Stoppard in 1967, and has since become a critically acclaimed piece of theatre.

This tragicomedy follows the actions of Rosencrantz (Daniel Radcliffe) and Guildenstern (Joshua McGuire), two minor characters taken from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Sections of the original play briefly intersect with this double act as they try to figure out what their role in the drama is.

To fully understand the play, it might be worth brushing up on Hamlet beforehand. Nonetheless, there is no need to worry about tricky Shakespearian dialect because most of this play is performed in standard English. Phew!

This was the first time that I have ever experienced Stoppard’s play and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was an intellectual, existentialist piece of work that was highly amusing. People often draw parallels between this play and the work of Samuel Beckett and it is not hard to see why. Death and mortality are key themes and both Guildenstern and Rosencrantz struggle to understand their past, present and future.

Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire make a perfect duo (and not just because of their similar heights). The chatty desperation that flows between them is palpable, intriguing, and, at times, hilarious. Nonetheless, it is David Haig who threatens multiple times to steal the show with his performance as The Player.

The performance that I watched was broadcasted live from the Old Vic in London and so I watched it at an Odeon cinema near where I live in Scotland. This was all thanks to the National Theatre Live which is an affordable and accessible way of bringing London theatre to the masses. I think it is a brilliant project which, like the play itself, I would highly recommend.


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