Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead … full of life

When I went: 29 April 2017

Music Owl Hoot rating: 4/5

Location: Old Vic, London

Performers: Daniel Radcliffe (Rosencrantz), Joshua McGuire (Guildenstern), David Haig (The Player), Matthew Durkan (Alfred), Louisa Beadel, Josie Dunn, Eviyne Oyedokun, Alex Sawyer, Tim van Eyken (Players), Luke Mullins (Hamlet), Helena Wilson (Ophelia), Hermeilio Miguel Aquino (Courtier), Theo Ogundipe (Horatio/Soldier), Wil Johnson (Claudius), Marianne Oldham (Gertrude), William Chubb (Polonius)

Creative team: Tom Stoppard (playwright), David Leveaux (director), Anna Fleischle (set designer), Corin Buckeridge (composer)

Approximate price: £150

Special points: Fast dialogue and minimalist sets

Best bit: Ending scene

If I could change one thing: Less of the Players

Review:

The play:

I wasn’t a big fan of Tom Stoppard’s Shakespeare in Love when I saw it a few years ago, but the positive reviews and the premise of the play were more promising. I liked the existentialist subject matter and the idea of a play that focused on two very minor characters from Hamlet.

The dialogue is mostly fast-paced and strongly relies on good chemistry between the two lead actors to pull it off; there is also an interesting blend of humour and bleakness in this play. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern could just be another wisecracking comedy duo were it not for the fact that they don’t know why they are where they are, they don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing, and it is unclear whether they can avoid their eventual fates anyway.

The ambiguous character of The Player is a Shakespeare / meta-type character similar to Prospero in The Tempest, who seems to be there to comment on life and death and the play itself.

This performance:

While waiting in the very crowded Old Vic foyer, I locked eyes briefly with someone who looked a lot like Lin-Manuel Miranda. Then, when we sat down, he appeared and came down the row and sat right in front of us. I really enjoyed In the Heights and am really looking forward to Hamilton, but I don’t like bothering people for autographs or a selfie in general unless it’s at a convention or something where they’ve signed up to do it. A lot of other people in the audience thought it was cool to scream down at him and take not-so-subtle pictures of him on their phones, though, but it was clear he was just trying to enjoy an evening at the theatre.

This performance followed the unwelcome trend of starting late – this has happened a lot lately and I’m not sure why, although in this case it could be because of the hordes of women not being able to get back to their seats in time due to the ridiculous lack of ladies’ toilets.

However, when we got down to business the play was great. There were plenty of funny lines and Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire as the leads sparked off each other really well and had tons of energy. They were so endearing that the Players were sometimes a bit annoying in contrast, although I enjoyed the glimpses of the play Hamlet within this play and the machinations of the Hamlet character himself. I have actually met Daniel Radcliffe before (a long time ago, on the set of a Harry Potter film) and have quite enjoyed a lot of his acting choices since Harry Potter – he has done an interesting mix of plays, musicals (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying) and films of varying tones and seems to really enjoy his work.

David Haig as The Player was also pretty engaging; I saw him previously as Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls and he had plenty of charisma there as well. The ending scene was particularly striking and worked well with the minimalist sets and spare lighting effects.

3 thoughts on “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead … full of life

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