“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” at Chichester

It’s bad form to write crits of shows before Press Night, and this note isn’t going to do that…

[After this note was written, press night came and went. The reviews started a little sour (mostly detecting a datedness in the piece), and accorded well with my impression. The Times and The Telegraph took more or less that line. The Guardian and the Independent were warmer and made me feel a little guilty. The Express was generous in a good way.]

Now go on…

Those of us who had tickets for this revival on 27 May, and for the pre-show talk by its director Trevor Nunn, had a sort of perfect evening.

Mr Nunn set us up nicely for a piece about theatrical happenstance by describing the long, rather fraught,  saga of his coming – after a false start and 40-odd years, to direct the piece. And he spoke of its early days, when coincidence accelerated its rise to fame when Ronald Bryden raved about it in the Observer almost by mistake from Edinburgh and Kenneth Tynan – then the paper’s film critic – previewed the review in the office and snapped it up for the NT, under the noses of Nunn’s RSC. (The cold light of Googling throws a little doubt on that account…)

On to the theatre and we learned that Tim Curry was unable to perform that night as The Player and so Chris Andrew Mellon had to pick up his role in a blink (and was brilliant): all his in-character lines about the need to improvise were doubly (or is it trebly?) poignant. And then – this was a kind of bliss – I sat across the aisle from Nunn as his pen-light flashed across his notepad (in some otherwise preternaturally darkened moments), which was shades of The Real Inspector Hound.  The fourth wall was torn down and pulverised into stardust.

Here’s a reviewish thing which I’m sure it is OK to say: this show looks surprisingly glamorous, at least when it needs to.


Paul Hoffman
In the light of recent events I decided to look up Pravda on the web and came across your 2006 review of its revival. My comment is here because I can't find anywhere else to leave it. I saw the original production and remember it vividly perhaps not least because I rarely share any opinions with Brenton or Hare. But your review of the revival was so dismissive of their warning about Murdoch that you surely have to retract what you said ( in effect that their claims were hysterical left-wing blather). You've been proved wrong about the decline of the press in 2006 and wrong about the play. I think a detailed explanation and apology is required of about the same length as your criticism. Good faith demands it.

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Publication date

27 May 2011


On theatre