Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

I saw this production weeks ago and this post should have been completed then. I went into the theatre with all the excitement and anticipation that one has when they’re about to see their all-time favourite play from a different perspective. I had the mind-set that this was Hamlet but from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s standpoints. Although this is fundamentally true, I soon realised that it is so much more than that.

It details events that Hamlet fans will be familiar with, for example, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are summoned to investigate why Hamlet is acting so melancholic.  However, Tom Stoppard’s masterpiece of word-play examines the ‘offstage’ moments that Hamlet only alludes to, making it so much more than merely a spinoff of Shakespeare’s play.

The confusion of identity within the play spiralled off the stage into the minds of the audience. I’m still not completely sure which characters Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire played. Although for some this is an essential component that makes the comedy so fantastic (which Radcliffe and McGuire executed splendidly). For me, the comedy only masked a serious issue which provoked a serious consideration of how even within the 21st century, a time where acceptance and ‘equal’ treatment of all class, genders, races, etc. can’t prevent many facing internal and sometimes outward struggles to come to terms with their own identities.

The play, in my opinion, was a two-man show. I felt that the costumes, staging and the other characters could have been omitted and the overarching concerns within the storyline would have still shined through Radcliffe and McGuire’s performances. However, the time period of the costumes added to the confusion of the play. There were elements of period dress and clothing, such as jeans, from today which suggested to me that those within the play are suspended between the 15th century and now. Perhaps this is to emphasise the parody nature of the play? Or perhaps it is to reinforce the fast paced nature of the play and perhaps to establish the idea that these concerns are relevant within the plays setting and within our own society.

Radcliffe was perfectly matched with McGuire, their mirroring and fraternal bond presented the idea that the entire play balances around these two characters. Their talent adds poignancy to the philosophical questions presented within the play, such as the role of chance in our lives, symbolised in the coin-tossing. The return to and the discussion of the coin-tossing throughout the play, especially at moments of integral importance emphasises the key theme and questioning of how the world is governed by randomness, lack of free will and acute awareness of mortality.







27 thoughts on “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

  1. I find it interesting when adaptions of classic plays or re-imaginings of classic playwrights are adapted for modern day viewing. I like both actors so I am pleased that they played their parts well, they are both very talented.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think it is always fun to see something in a different perspective or even just to think about something in a different point of view. Your review was well written and though I am not too familiar with the Hamlet but you have sparked my interest.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love going to plays, there’s something more intimate when seeing it on stage right before your eyes. I have yet to see this play, but the two main actors sound like they did an amazing job. Too bad for the costumes though, every part that goes into a play is important…
    you make me want to go to a play now… it’s been about a month since my last one I attended at the Guthrie in MN.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I read Stoppard’s play a long time ago. Like some of his other work, I enjoyed it but felt I surely didn’t catch every idea that was presented.

    Your descriptions, and just seeing those two actors in the R&G roles, however…

    Wow, I have to go back and read it, maybe in their voices (!) if I can’t get to the play.


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