Tom Stoppard puts two of Shakespeare’s minor characters under the microscope

Photos Manuel Harlan

Theatre review Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead The Old Vic - credit manuel harlan

The sea of school uniforms should have been a warning sign. It’s the second night of Tom Stoppard’s 50th anniversary revival of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, and tonight’s audience is awash with Harry Potter fans. As Daniel Radcliffe (playing Rosencrantz) enters stage right, there’s an audible gasp of excitement. Someone screams ‘I love you, Daniel’ as the curtain comes down. Roses are thrown at his feet as he takes a bow.

Theatre review Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead The Old Vic - credit manuel harlan

But this play couldn’t be further from the wizarding world of Hogwarts. Set behind the scenes of a production of Hamlet, our titular characters ponder the meaning of life in the moments they’re not on stage. Their musings are frequently interrupted by The Player (a larger-than-life David Haig) and his band of musical misfits, plus Hamlet and members of the Danish royal court. Indeed, some of the performance’s best moments come as the duo are thrown into the play-within-a-play, the language switching from playful to Shakespearean in seconds.

Theatre review Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead The Old Vic - credit manuel harlan

Radcliffe’s blustering Rosencrantz might get the most laughs, but Joshua McGuire’s comic timing as the sparring, quick-witted Guildenstern is impeccable. Between them they make an intriguing pair, especially when their navel-gazing is placed alongside the death-filled backdrop of the Bard’s tragedy. Getting to know some of Shakespeare’s minor characters has never been so magic.

Until 29 April
Hospitality The Old Vic’s café-bar, Penny, can be booked for semi-private drinks and canapé receptions. The theatre is also partnered with a number of restaurants that can cater for pre-theatre drinks and dinners.

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Theatre review Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead The Old Vic - credit manuel harlan

Theatre review Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead The Old Vic - credit manuel harlan

Theatre review Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead The Old Vic - credit manuel harlan

Theatre review Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead The Old Vic - credit manuel harlan