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Bridge Theatre's first season - and what we know about London's newest venue

Review: Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire in the splendid Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Old Vic

Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire. Photo Manuel Harlan

Joshua McGuire (Guildenstern), who has played Hamlet, is on stage talking to a Hamlet (Luke Mullins) - could Tom Stoppard have anticipated this when he wrote Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead 50 years ago?

Such career progression from tragedy to humourous meta-theatre feels wholly apt for this existential play which explores fate versus self-determinism. The two minor characters of Shakespeare's play are catapulted centre (back) stage and seem determined to cling to life when literary fate would have it otherwise. 

"There must have been a moment, at the beginning, where we could have said - no. But somehow we missed it."

Called to the Danish court by Hamlet's uncle, Rosencrantz (Daniel Radcliffe) and Guildenstern's 'job' is to determine what is wrong with the Prince - the problem is they are out of their depth. Unsure of what they need to do or how to do it they search for structure, rules - clues - to help. They talk themselves into and out of action, bide their time bickering and bury themselves in familiar games while the story of Hamlet plays out on the periphery, often sweeping across the back of a stage like a human curtain being drawn.

On route to the court, they bump into The Player (David Haig) and his ragtag troupe who are also on their way to Elsinore, hoping to make a little money. David Haig's performance is a fantastic fusion of Fagin-style thief wrangler, lecherous, hand-wandering pimp and a thesp. Bawdiness and death scenes are the grubby, Pierrot clown-faced company's specialities; the circle of life epitomised in entertainment - or 'art' as The Player would deem it.

Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire make for a wonderfully bewildered double act. Radcliffe is the quieter one, all wide-eyed and confused while McGuire is bubblier, spilling into barely contained panic at times. There is sense and absurdity in what they say as there is in The Player who has the smile of someone who is on the plot.

In the final scene, art imitates art - which imitates life, as we know - and there is a melancholic final note of impermanence of man compared the permanence of art.

I loved this play all over again. It is a lively and amusing production, profound and melancholic and one that will play differently to different people much like the play which inspired it. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is at the Old Vic until May 6 and you can also catch it via NT Live in cinemas on April 20. It is two hours and 20 minutes long including an interval and I'm giving it five stars.