Steeped in over 195 years’ of history, the Old Vic provides the perfect setting for Tom Stoppard’s classic Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
And more than 50 years since it first premiered at the theatre, the popularity continues to grow with Director, David Liveaux’s most recent imagination of the play having its run extended to meet popular demand.
Telling the story of two minor characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the courtiers Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Stoppard’s play takes place mainly in the universe of Shakespeare’s, with brief appearances of major characters from Hamlet who enact fragments of the original’s scenes.
Between these episodes the two lead characters voice their confusion at the progress of events occurring onstage without them in Hamlet, of which they have no direct knowledge.
With such a strong focus on the two title roles of the play, casting is crucial to the production’s success. Thankfully McGuire and Radcliffe do not disappoint. McGuire has an easy energy that compliments Guildenstern’s pragmatic sense of direction, his confidence, feeling of smugness and his ability to control mounting exasperation. Alongside this Radcliffe plays a more understated role of Rosencrantz. Allowing Rosencrantz to appear simple but happy, giving the character a winning dimness, engaging the audience to this innocent character.
Other stand out performances come from, David Haig as the Player. Taking on the role of a seedy Fagin-esque character, he comes on booming with energy bringing a range of comedy and at times chilling moments to the stage.
With this quality cast, creative director and classic setting, it’s easy to see why as the play enjoys its 50th anniversary production; it has had a revival of substance.