THEATRE REVIEW: The matter of life and death for two right characters

Joshua McGuire and Daniel Radcliffe in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, beamed live from London's Old Vic Theatre as part of the NT Live series. Photo: New World Pictures.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are DeadNational Theatre Live South Holland Centre, Spalding

To mark the occasion, Harry Potter film star Daniel Radcliffe and stage/TV actor Joshua McGuire slipped comfortably into the shoes of Hamlet’s hapless friends for a play screened live from London’s Old Vic Theatre to Spalding.

The screening itself, just over two years after Act II Theatre Company’s tackling of Stoppard’s alternative look at Hamlet, was full of the elements that make Shakespeare’s tale of murder, seduction and incest so memorable.

Radcliffe and McGuire act with all the nervous tension fitting for a pair who sense that death is close at hand, without knowing precisely when it will strike.

But the play belonged to David Haig’s slightly sadistic, slightly manic, portrayal of The Player, leader of a motley crew of actors known as the Tragedians who bring new meaning to the phrase ‘pay as you play’.

It helps that Haig, perhaps best known for his roles in Four Weddings and a Funeral, has almost all of the best lines as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern make their slow march towards oblivion.

The quality of production and performance provided a perfect response to one of Haig’s most pertinent lines, “We’re actors (and) we pledged our identities, secure in the conventions of our trade that someone would be watching”.

Review by Winston Brown

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