UPDATED: This story has now been updated with the complete cast list for Trevor Nunn’s production at the Old Vic.

Casting has been announced for two plays which arrive in the West End in April: Trevor Nunn’s ‘student’ Hamlet and the transfer of the National Theatre’s premiere production of Michael Frayn’s Democracy.

In Nunn’s production of Hamlet, which opens from 27 April to 31 July 2004 (previews from 17 April) at the Old Vic (See News, 6 Feb 2004), the director is intentionally casting undergraduate-aged actors as the prince and his peers. Ben Whishaw (pictured), currently appearing as Brother Jasper in His Dark Materials, will play the title role with Ophelia played by stage newcomer Samantha Whittaker, who has had to drop out of her English course at University College London to accept the role.

Gertrude and Claudius, Hamlet’s mother and uncle-stepfather, will be played by stage veterans Imogen Stubbs (Mum’s the Word, The Relapse, Betrayal, Othello) and Tom Mannion (seen last year at the Old Vic in the RSC’s Merry Wives of Windsor and Coriolanus).

The cast will also feature Al Weaver (Reynaldo, and Hamlet at selected performances each week), Jotham Annan (Horatio), Lewis Barfoot, Edward Hughes (Guildenstern), Nick Jones (Polonius), Rory Kinnear (Laertes), Jack Laskey, Sid Livingstone (Voltimand), Tom Mison (Fortinbras), Samuel Roukin (Osric), James Simmons (Marcelles) and Kevin Wathen (Rosencrantz).

The production is designed by John Gunter, with costumes by Mark Bouman, lighting by David Hersey, sound by Fergus O’Hare and movement by Kate Flatt. It’s presented by Old Vic Productions plc, Ron Kastner and Background Productions.

At Wyndham’s Theatre - where Michael Frayn’s multi award-winning Democracy will play a limited season from 20 April 2004 (previews from 15 April) following its current extension at the NT Lyttelton to 30 March (See News, 12 Jan 2004) – National Theatre leads Roger Allam and Conleth Hill will remain along with Nicholas Blane, Paul Broughton, Christoper Ettridge, Paul Gregory, Glyn Grain and David Ryall from the original company. New to the all-male cast for the West End will be Simon Chandler and Michael Simkins.

Democracy - which follows the career of West German Chancellor Willy Brandt (Allam) and his personal assistant Gunter Guillaume (Hill), who spied on him for the East German Stasi - had its world premiere on 9 September 2003 at the NT Cottesloe before transferring this year to the Lyttelton. It has won Best Play prizes at both the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Awards.

The premiere production is directed by Michael Blakemore and designed by Peter J Davison, with costumes by Sue Willmington, lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Neil Alexander. It’s presented in the West End, ahead of a planned Broadway transfer, by Michael Codron, Lee Dean and J and C Nederlander.

- by Terri Paddock