Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead: A Collection of Thoughts and Comments

2 February 2018

Last Sunday, Carleton gave us the gift of a screening of National Theatre Live’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Many majors and non-majors turned out for the event, ready to marvel and gawk at this absurdist piece about existence and death and Hamlet (sort of). Some people also wanted to see if Daniel Radcliffe’s performance was up to snuff. Whatever it was we all came out for, some students felt compelled to respond via review/blurb. The Second Laird Miscellany was only too happy to gather together some of these responses and post them below. If you, for some reason, missed the screening, or feel like matching your own opinions of the piece against others’, definitely check out what these students are saying!  

Maddy Birnbaum (‘20):
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead has been my favorite play since I read it in AP Lit junior year of high school. Seeing this production was a dream for me and I think they did the play justice. Daniel Radcliffe did a wonderful job capturing Rosencrantz’ innocence and accidental wisdom, as did Joshua McGuire with Guildenstern’s neurotic desire for logic and reason. The one area of the show I wish had been slightly more compelling was the music: the players’ tunes didn’t evoke emotion in me, particularly in the final scene where Horatio’s speech is supposed to be “overtaken by dark and music“; I had always imagined the music would be overwhelmingly haunting in that moment (126).

Jennifer Chan (‘19):
Watching Rosencrantz and Guildenstern felt a bit like spying on strangers through a kaleidoscope. The colors and light spun in dizzying ways, as did the dialogue and the characters. Perhaps I would’ve understood better if I knew whether the sun was rising or setting, or if I knew what death meant.

Kathleen Danielson (‘20):
The actors’ performances brought to life the often breakneck pace of Stoppard’s play and accentuated the vivid personalities of the characters. The staging offered a colorful visual interpretation of the play, making it even more riveting than it is as just words on a page.

Brynne Diggins (‘19):
I went into the screening expecting Daniel Radcliffe to be playing Guildenstern (this assumption was based off of my reading of the script alone). As the play progressed, I was thoroughly impressed by his portrayal of his actual role, that of Rosencrantz. I felt both of the main actors found depth and meaning in their parts, and the scenes between the two were emotive and well done. By the time the two disappeared at the end of the play, I felt attached to both of them, and their disappearances were poignant rather than just an act. The NTLive preview of the play also gave us a look behind the scenes, and I appreciated the commentary by Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire about the set design and theater space. The set contributed to the play’s sense of their characters not being in control; the huge stage, adorned with painted clouds on all sides, emphasized how small they were, echoing their role in the scheme of the larger play, Hamlet, that would dash on and off stage. Overall, the viewing was a pleasant way to pass a Sunday afternoon.

Julian Hast (‘19):
The play was fun. The actors bring out a lot of the lines’ comedy which tends more to hide itself in writing.

Nam Anh Nguyen (‘19):
The show’s fast-paced energy really built up to the absurdity of it all. In addition, the music complemented the play very well. Overall, it was a lively, effective performance.

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