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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at The Old Vic

Marion Marples

Fifty years after its first production at The Old Vic Tom Stoppard's classic Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead has been reinvigorated in its latest production directed by David Leveaux.

Joshua McGuire (Guildenstern) and Daniel Radcliffe (Rosencrantz, or vice versa) are a brilliant pairing, with energetic word play and quick repartee carrying the story, such as it is.

The stilted conversations put me in mind of Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot'. To this is added the appearance of a surreal band of players led by excellent David Haig in the manner of Shakespeare's 'Rude Mechanicals' which adds to the confusion about what is going on.

For me the least successful 'play within a play' was the Hamlet back story at Elsinore where Rosencrantz and Guildenstern find their purpose and identity, such as it is, taking the mad Prince of Denmark to England, wonderfully described as 'a conspiracy of cartographers', by boat. The staging of this voyage references Beckett and Godot.

The production is thoroughly engrossing and enjoyable, but still in the end we are still puzzled. Perhaps Tom Stoppard's own verdict – 'It's about two courtiers at Elsinore' – is as close as we get.

• The play will be broadcast live on Thursday 20 April at over 700 UK cinemas

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