facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images mail whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close spinner11
Are you missing theatre as much as we are? Support us now with Theatre Tokens and see your favourite shows when they reopen. #IMissTheatre

Why we loved Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

First Published 8 March 2017, Last Updated 9 March 2017

There’s little that can warm the heart – and, let’s face it, boggle the mind – like a Tom Stoppard comedy. And as the recent acclaim for Travesties at the Menier Chocolate Factory and Apollo Theatre proved, there’s certainly an appetite for his unique style of highbrow hilarity in London’s Theatreland at the moment.

But with such a peculiar style of writing, could The Old Vic, with an all-star cast including Daniel Radcliffe, Joshua McGuire and David Haig, perform one of Stoppard’s earliest works, the existential Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, to perfection on press night? The answer – unlike many of those to the questions posed in the play – is definitive: yes.

Daniel Radcliffe’s return to the London stage

Daniel Radcliffe (Rosencrantz) and Joshua McGuire (Guildenstern) in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

Daniel Radcliffe (Rosencrantz) and Joshua McGuire (Guildenstern) in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

Daniel Radcliffe has had nothing if not an eclectic career as an actor far, starring in roles from boy wizard on screen, to musically brilliant businessman on Broadway, and disturbed youth Alan Strang in 2007’s West End production of Equus.

In Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, the brilliant actor once again put his range to the test and showcased impressive dexterity, imposing himself upon the role of the meek and shrinking Rosencrantz and playing off Joshua McGuire’s exuberant Guildenstern with aplomb. Through the duo’s sheer comic timing alone, it was a return to the West End stage worth waiting for – and that’s without adding in a scene-stealing turn by David Haig as a bawdy lead Player. Acting excellence abounds.

The hilarity of Hamlet

Luke Mullins (Hamlet) in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead at The Old Vic (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

Luke Mullins (Hamlet) in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead at The Old Vic (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

You may not have realised it, but hidden behind-the-scenes of Shakespeare’s immortal tragedy Hamlet has – at least in the mind of Stoppard – always lain a wise-cracking, meta-theatrical comedy of place and purpose, as the two minor characters unknowingly sent to dispatch the central character ultimately find themselves embroiled in an inevitable march towards death themselves.

With side-splitting confusion permeating throughout, the plight of two wise-cracking characters who barely understand their role in events – let alone on the stage itself – provides a brilliantly inspired, droll, and yet simultaneously moving, foil to the tragic story it continually interweaves with. Who knew Hamlet could be so hilarious?

Merry musings on mortality

The Players in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead at The Old Vic (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

The Players in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead at The Old Vic (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

Even assuming they hadn’t heard the title, many of the audience attending will be aware of the events of Hamlet and, ultimately, the characters’ of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern’s ultimate fates – spoiler warning: it’s not a happy ending.

But what makes this production of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead so brilliant is not the end result of the characters’ Godot-esque existential bickering, but the darkly comic, and at times even merry, musings on mortality which pave the road towards it. From confusion to cheer, and ultimately resistance to resignation, the show questions how we would all want to take our final bows when the curtain comes down, in both farcical but also poignantly provocative fashion.

 

The quip-fuelled intellectual comedy

David Haig (The Player) and The Players in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead at The Old Vic (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

David Haig (The Player) and The Players in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead at The Old Vic (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

“FIRE!” barks Rosencrantz (or is that Guildenstern? They don’t seem so sure themselves…), as everybody jumps to their feet – simply because he wants to demonstrate the misuse of free speech.

It’s clear from early on that Tom Stoppard’s famously intellectual comedy is manifested fully in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, with the playwright’s expertly deft touch in treading the line between brilliance and baffling scripts perfectly realised in a wonderfully rewarding comedy. Fifty years on from its UK premiere, it’s a show to cherish.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead plays at The Old Vic until 29 April. You can book your tickets through us here.

Share

Sign up

Related articles

If you click through to seat selection (where you'll see either best available or a seating plan), you will be seeing the most up-to-date prices. If this differs from what we've written on the calendar, please bear with us, as those prices will update soon.

We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.

While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.