If you didn’t study Shakespeare’s Hamlet with the same intensity that I had to, you may not remember the name’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Difficult names to say and difficult characters to remember. There were just there; human plot devices to move the story along or put Hamlet in the right place at the right time. This play fills in the gaps quite nicely with humour and big questions that make your head fuzzy. The play was written way back in 1966 and premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe. Not essential to my review but I thought it was interesting.
The play was gifted to me a while back under the premise that it was the greatest thing ever written. I think I agree. I would pick reading it over watching it. I don’t know how Joshua McGuire and Daniel Radcliffe learnt it! They spoke at the speed of light and danced around the same topic of conversation. A labyrinth of words, it was a little hard to keep up at times.
McGuire, as Guildenstern, would work himself into a real mess and we were left in stunned silence with Rosencrantz, played by Radcliffe. Guildenstern slowly builds to his anger and Rosencrantz’s came from nowhere. Guildenstern and Rosencrantz are two sides of the same coin. The opening states that a little bluntly. They’re both heads. They overthink… everything. The play returned to The Old Vic to celebrate it’s 50th anniversary, directed by David Leveaux, and it’s as timeless as the original Shakespeare. Leveaux understood the pace of the thing, when to rampage uncontrollably and when to pause for thought.
The best way to describe the play is ‘Clever’, there’s really no two ways about it. Stoppard’s script uses the original play text. As Rosencrantz and Guildenstern only spoke to royalty in Hamlet, it’s as if the King, Queen and wayward Prince have their own language. We are the common folk with the boys and the players. The Players! A mix match group of artists of any art. They provided crude humour that was a welcome break from the absurd nature of the boys’ situation and life itself. The plot may be borrowed but Tom Stoppard has created something unique with the same 26 letters we all use.