Review: Live from The Old Vic starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead hits Australian cinemas

Get yourself ready for an evening of belly laughs and deep concentration because absurdism is back, and it is better than ever! Tom Stoppard‘s groundbreaking 20th century absurdist play Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and thanks to the National Theatre Live, you are able to see it fresh from its season at The Old Vic theatre in London starring none other than Daniel Radcliffe, Joshua McGuire and David Haig.

Before curtain up we were treated to two short interviews, firstly with Artistic Director of The Old Vic, Matthew Warchus. He gave us a real insight into the 199 year-old theatre, explaining that it is one of the oldest working theatres in London bringing world class theatre to the masses.

“Its surface grandeur belies its real identity as an unpredictable, ground breaking, rule breaking, independent beacon of accessible, uplifting and unintimidating art,” he said.

He went on to share that there is always something new to entertain at The Old Vic; it’s a special but eclectic theatre with everything you can think of when it comes to decor and design – the red velvet seats, the gold proscenium arch, and the sparkling chandelier.

“With a name that sounds like a local pub, The Old Vic is for everyone. It’s a theatre with an extraordinary and unconventional history that we use as inspiration to create exciting, daring and refreshing work for anyone and everyone, now and for the next 200 years to come,” he said.

We were then given a behind the scenes look of The Old Vic with leading men Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire. The two actors kept it real as they showed us where they rehearsed, explained the stage transformation and brought us to front of house, where it was rather quiet, much like the calm before the storm. They were endearing and funny; a bit like two housemates showing off their new home.

Incredibly, this Stoppard masterpiece revival is being played on the very stage it was first performed. Based around the two minor characters from Shakespeare‘s Hamlet, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead will leave you feeling amused, baffled but most importantly gobsmacked. The David Leveaux directed play follows the babbling duo stumbling their way in and out of scenes from the iconic drama. In a way, it is very much reminiscent of Samuel Beckett‘s Waiting for Godot. Again, an absolute absurdist classic.

This was a masterclass in acting as Radcliffe and McGuire showed just how skilled they are at wordplay, pace, comedic timing and finding the heart of the story. It’s almost like a whirlwind though; the play starts and it feels like it doesn’t go anywhere, but in fact that in a way is the point. It’s so ‘normal’ it’s as if you can somehow relate to any one moment of their conversation or word games. Their friendship and worldly innocence are so endearing, especially towards the end when the pennies start to drop about their situation.

Joining them is a cast of extremely talented actors who bring the Hamlet aspect to life. David Haig and Luke Mullins lead the ensemble in their roles as Player and Hamlet, both committing to the existential concepts of this tragicomedy. It is during the scenes where they can enact fragments from Hamlet  where Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are able to voice their confusion at the progress of events occurring onstage without them actually in Hamlet. It may seem confusing at first, but you’ll get the gist of it. It’s one of those plays where you need to immerse yourself in the psyche and humour of the situations.

This was yet another successful screening of of a National Theatre play, with plenty more to come throughout the year. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead opens in select cinemas tomorrow with tickets still on sale for this hilarious production. Head here to find your nearest cinema and session time. Next up is Obsession starring Jude Law. Can’t wait for that!

National Theatre Live will be presenting Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead in select cinemas around Australia from 24th June 2017. Check your local cinema listing for screening details or head to their official website.

Photos by Manuel Harlan