Review – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

Guildenstern (Joshua McGuire) and Rosencrantz (Daniel Radcliffe),To mark the 50th Anniversary of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, The Old Vic announced a production starring Joshua McGuire and Daniel Radcliffe as the titular characters, alongside David Haig.

Exploring the off stage existential crisis of two minor characters in Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’, Stoppard explores dark and powerful themes through witty and self referential humour. Whilst we know the outcome of our protagonists, they discuss at length what they suspect it may be, and in particular become fixated on the idea that perhaps they are unimportant and what may happen if they die.
I’ve been lucky enough to see Radcliffe in a couple of his previous stage endeavours and was pleasantly surprised by his performance in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead as his comic timing is spot on throughout the show, and his rapport with McGuire gives them both a charming innocence, as well as supporting the more sombre speeches the two must make. David Haig makes a stellar attempt to completely steal the show, and his performance as the Player is constantly hilarious and he delivers Stoppard’s excellent script with ease and style.
The stage is largely bare throughout the show, allowing the versatile actors to show off their talents. The layout of The Old Vic is such that there are simply no bad seats, and therefore even perched at the top I felt in amongst the story. If you know ‘Hamlet’ well then Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is full of nods that will have you chuckling, and raising your eyebrows at the intense dramatic irony throughout. However, the overarching themes of friendship, confusion and a desperation to understand your purpose and goal in life are universal, even to anyone not familiar with Shakespeare’s work.

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