Culture: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

What’s On Stage


“What shall we do this evening?”

“Do you want to go to the theatre?”

“What’s on at the theatre?”

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.”

“Aha, statement!”

The Question Game is just one way in which quickfire dialogue flies back and forth in young Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, which has returned to London’s Old Vic half a century after premiering on its stage. This time around it’s directed by David Leveaux, with Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire perfectly matched as the comic double act and David Haig assuming the part of the somewhat seedy Player.

The story is set against the backdrop of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and sees Rosencrantz (Radcliffe) and Guildenstern (McGuire) stumble seamlessly in and out of the action, all the while contemplating their identities and the inevitability of death. Keeping the morbid amusing is Stoppard’s way with words and aiding our thoughts on afterlife is Anna Fleischle’s cloud-covered canvas sky.

Yes, DanRad fans will love it – one wide-eyed member of the audience proclaimed her love for him the night I saw it, while another tossed him a rose – but Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is about more than one man. It’s about characters, mortality and words. Oh and, from time to time, unicorns.

Until 29 April 2017.

The Old Vic, The Cut, London, SE1 8NB.

Photo: Chloë Ashby.

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