Play Review: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead - National Theatre Live

 

Raise a hand if you can pronounce the title of this play, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”, in one go without twisting your tongue - because I can’t! So, I am going to refer to it from now it as ‘RaG’ in my review, because even typing it in full is a hassle.

I heard about this play for the first time at my very first job, where we had the movie with same title available at the library. It was released in 1990 and had two of my (now) favourite actors - Gary Oldman and Tim Roth. I never had a chance to rent this movie and for years ‘RaG’ in my head was labelled as ‘that one movie I never got to watch’. I knew that it was somehow linked to Shakespeare, but only later I learned that it was originally a play by Tom Stoppard and not a movie (the movie had Stoppard as both director and writer). When National Theatre announced this play in honour of the play’s 50th anniversary and casted Joshua McGuire and Daniel Radcliffe (the latter I had been dying to see on stage), I was ready to buy tickets on spot. I believe that the fact that ex Harry Potter was on stage had to do something with the younger than usual audience at the broadcast - which is great as I would love to more younger people go to theatre. I watched this play on April 20, and if I could, I would watch it again.

 

As per usual, I set my mind on reading the play before watching it on stage, but I didn’t have time to finish it. And I am glad it happened this way as I think it is easy to get lost in the absurdist nature of the dialogues and miss the point, while watching it on stage added a different layer of meaning.

 

If you don’t know what this play is about but you feel that it is vaguely familiar, well, you are not alone. Tom Stoppard took two secondary characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and wrote an absurdist, existentialist tragicomedy that portrays those two inseparable friends as confused and unwilling participants in the events of Hamlet. There are bits of dialogues and actual scenes from Hamlet, but they are used to only enhance the absurdity of everything that is happening. R and G are confused by their existence, by the world’s existence, by everything that is happening, including Hamlet’s depression and obsession with his father’s death. They futilely try to find the meaning in everything, but eventually, even when they discover that the letter with death sentence that they carry has their names, they still follow the appointed road to the end.

 

The play is funny, absurd, existential, and thought provoking. It is a meta within a meta, and theatrical bits and scenes serve as the commentary and parody on Hamlet. Both Joshua McGuire and Daniel Radcliffe do an amazing job as two confused fellows, who try and fail to make sense of things. They talk about life and death, and probability. The play has too many layers to take in just in one viewing. That is why I hope I would get a chance to see it on stage again, as I feel in no way qualified to talk about the play indepth.

 

The play was introduced by a short movie, as usual, with both actors talking about the play and stage. The Old Vic’s stage was transformed and sort of elongated to bring it closer to the audience. The play originally premiered in the same theatre 50 years ago, which made it an incredible experience for both the actors and the audience to experience it again on the same stage.

 

Highly recommend to English majors, Shakespeare lovers as well as fans of theatre!

 

Personal rating: 4 stars

 

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TIFF 2013 - Kill Your Darlings

Originally written: SEPTEMBER 10, 2013 Kill Your Darlings Movie Poster

"Kill Your Darlings" is a 2013 American biographical drama film written by Austin Bunn and directed by John Krokidas. The story is about the college days of some of the earliest members of the Beat Generation (Lucien Carr, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac), their interactions, and the killing in Riverside Park in Manhattan, New York City.

My luck was back today as I got to see Kill Your Darlings with Daniel Radcliffe. The start time was at 6.30om at Roy Thompson Hall. Seeing as yesterday the rush line was enormous for August: Osage County I didn’t really have much hope.

I arrived at the venue at 4.50pm and was surprised to see that the line was tiny. There were about 30-35 people ahead of me. It must have been the heat. Today was a crazy weather - almost +35C and high humidity. I doubted that I would be able to stay in the heat for so long to get a ticket.

Surprisingly, it was not that bad and I did have an umbrella with me. I met a nice teenaged boy from Ukraine with whom we talked about the movies and life and Canada.

The line started to slowly move around 6.25pm. At 6.50pm we were almost at the front of the line, and the movie was rolling credits. We were among the last 8 people to be admitted! I was lucky again!

We missed a couple of minutes of the movie though. It was also the venue with the tightest security I have seen at TIFF. We were directed all the way to the box office and then to the mezzanine with an insane amount of staff at each step, directing us where to stand and walk in one line. That was pretty strange after being left to our own devices at other venues the moment we got inside. Maybe it was so, because of some other events going at the venue (like a drinks/buffet for the sponsors at the terrace - but maybe it was unrelated).

I loved the movie. It was brilliantly shot and very emotional. The way some memories scenes unfolded through back motions and a bit surreal (in terms of very contemporary sounding music - contemporary for our age, that is) was mesmerizing. Daniel was amazing. I forgot that he used to play Harry Potter and was a British actor. All I saw was Allen Ginsberg.

I loved the emotions and how every character had his own demons to fight. How they wanted to make changes and were experimenting with everything, trying to define the norm. It was all about booze, smoke/drugs, sex and writing. They surely had fun.

I would love to see it again.

Also, not really recommended for anyone under 18, as there were quite a lot of racy themes.

There were no Q&As at the end, although the whole cast was sitting in the audience! The beam was light was directed at them after the credits started to roll and they all stood up. (Daniel is so adorably short!) I would have loved to have Q&As with them, but seeing as they were sitting at the balcony and not below, it was obvious that there would be none.

I think it is pretty cool that they stayed to watch the movie though. I honestly didn’t stay till the end of the credits, so I am not sure if anything happened afterwards.

That is the last time I was rushing the ticket this year. I am going to see three more movies (Blind Detective, Cold Eyes and Violette) but I have the tickets for all of them.

Stay tuned!