Theater Review: “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”, Starring Daniel Radcliffe
Celebrating 50 years since the play’s premiere, the Old Vic’s revival of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is a thoroughly enjoyable production, full of laughs and heartfelt moments of melancholy.
Tom Stoppard’s play tells the story of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the hapless minor characters of Hamlet, Shakespeare’s iconic tragedy about the Prince of Denmark. Running parallel to the original story, we see the tale from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s perspective, catching moments of the wild dramas of Hamlet, as they try to manage their friend who has supposedly lost his mind while pondering their role and fate in the story.
Radcliffe and McGuire (About Time, The Hour) are amazing as the titular characters. The two toss one-liners and plot lines back and forth effortlessly, sometimes at such speed that they aren’t the only ones left reeling. Radcliffe plays Rosencrantz (or is it Guildenstern?) brilliantly, a character who is never quite sure of his role in the story they are in, or in life. He particularly shines in the quicker moments of the show – during the “question game,” where you must answer a question with another question. or during the moments surrounding the mystery of why their flipped coin continues to come up as heads instead of tails. Radcliffe and McGuire are perfect opposites, and their chemistry is undeniably brilliant throughout as they continuously switch back and forth from deep, philosophical questions to the silly quips and trademark verbal tennis – both literal and figurative! David Haig (Two Week’s Notice, Four Weddings and a Funeral) is also fantastic, almost stealing the show in his little asides as the lead player.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead remains funny and relevant after half a century, with Radcliffe and McGuire expertly introducing new audiences to the Stoppard classic. A word of advice, though – if you don’t remember your Hamlet, do yourself a favor and brush up a bit before seeing the show!
You can catch Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at the Old Vic until April 29, with the TodayTix daily lottery. If you aren’t in London or can’t get a ticket, the show will be broadcast worldwide as part of the National Theatre Live series.
Review by Taryn Strella