On Tuesday morning, we gathered for the first Talkback of our tour, to discuss the previous night’s production of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead at the Old Vic. The first London production of the play took place on that same stage 50 years ago, when the Old Vic was the home of the National Theatre. (We’ll be attending the National Theatre’s “new” home on Thursday, to see Amadeus.)
This production put particular emphasis on the character of the Player, and on his traveling troupe. David Haig–the British actor and playwright–was deeply charismatic and memorable in the role. His demeanor, red jacket, and troupe of actors/musicians/clowns put many in mind of a ringmaster. Others pointed out a more malevolent sense from him, almost satanic.
This production’s emphasis on the players brought out much of the playwright’s interest in the nature of theatre. His dramatic “death” late in the play brought home the play’s concern with the true nature of death, or as Guildenstern describes it: “not being.”
The friendship between the two main characters also gained attention in this production. Particularly memorable was a moment when Daniel Radcliffe, as Rosencrantz, told Joshua McGuire, as Guildenstern, “I wanted to make you happy.” We also particularly enjoyed the two leads’ wonderfully timed performance of the “question game,” in which no statements, repetitions, or rhetoric are allowed.
After the Talkback, many of our travelers set out to enjoy another day of mild weather here in London. (Sorry, you snowbound friends at home.) Among the day’s destinations was the Courtauld Gallery, a perennial favorite. The collection stretches from the early Renaissance into the 20th century and is displayed in the elegant setting of Somerset House.
The Gallery is particularly renowned for its unrivaled collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, including masterpieces by Monet, Van Gogh and Gauguin and the largest collection of Cézannes in the UK.
Tuesday evening, many of us gathered at four different restaurants for the “dine-around.” This tour tradition is a great opportunity to get to know fellow travelers better over a terrific dinner. After dinner we all met up at the Royal Court, to see Simon McBurney’s stage adaptation of Robert Evans’s memoir, The Kid Stays in the Picture.