This is only the second time I have watched an NTLive screening, and this was the perfect production for screening. Much of the humour could only be truly enjoyed by seeing facial expressions, which would have been difficult unless you are willing to spend £90 a ticket.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the way the screening still evoked an intimate feel, as you are welcomed into the venue and given a history of the Old Vic. Their neon motto above the auditorium of "Dare, always dare!", is befitting as ever under Artistic Director Matthew Warchus, and the insight into the theatre was a wonderful advert for the venue. This motto was particularly suited to the production as well, as Tom Stoppard's absurdist comedy shows us how not to live our lives.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead has been revived for its 50th anniversary on the stage it was first performed, with Stoppard's support in rehearsals. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are a blundering duo, not quite sure who or where they are. They muddle their way through Hamlet, and when their scenes from Hamlet leave the stage, they are abandoned with no sense of purpose or direction. They inhabit a blank cloud-like canvas, much like Waiting for Godot. It appears deep and endless, much like their suffering in the pursuit to find purpose, or even their own names.
The play at first seemed pointless, but I soon realised the increasing irony. The audience question how they can have no desires, desperately waiting for people to come along and decide their fate without actively seeking them out. Endless excuses as to why they can do nothing but wait. How frustrating! It dawned on me - how often do we live our lives like this? Waiting for someone to make the decision, or for a situation to 'play out'. I found myself chuckling away as Guildenstern announces "We are entitled a sense of direction!". I have often found myself wishing someone could enlighten me to my purpose. Another line that resonated was 'one acts on assumptions - truth is a currency'. In theatre we piece together our own narratives for characters, but also in life as we build relationships. Many people are a character in search of an author.
Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire are the perfect pair for the job - each line is crisp and direct, the ball never drops. But without this kind of energy, the play would be unbearable in its repetitions. It's nippy and funny, and David Haig is an unexpected gift in a part that could be easily tedious. As the Player King, I couldn't get the image of Wagner out of my head (The X Factor version) but he stole the show. I must admit towards the end it felt slightly long, and the other Shakespearean characters were unmemorable - particularly an overally camp Hamlet. I was unsure if the characters were intentionally satirical in their traditional portrayal. Despite this, it was an exciting production to witness, even from the cinema.