Tennant and all the key members of the company - including Patrick Stewart, who played Claudius – have signed up to appear in the Illuminations production, which will be helmed by the play’s director, RSC chief associate Gregory Doran, and filmed at an undisclosed location, starting in June. An exact UK transmission date has not yet been announced, but it will be followed in 2010 with broadcasts in the US and Japan and 2010 as well as a DVD release.
BBC Two controller Janice Hadlow said that the film was “a wonderful opportunity to bring one of the great stage successes of last year to a wider audience.” Doran added: “The Hamlet cast and the RSC are all really delighted that we now have the chance to share this show with audiences around the world.”
Tennant took a break from Doctor Who, for which he’s just completed filming his farewell series, in order to return to the stage in Hamlet last year. The production sold out within hours of tickets going on sale for first its Stratford-upon-Avon run and later its London transfer, causing a ticket frenzy and the West End’s first major counterfeiting incident. It opened at the West End’s Novello Theatre in December, but Tennant was forced to miss most of the run there, including the press performance, due to a back injury (See News, 5 Jan 2009).
Though Tennant returned for the final week in London, he was ineligible for a Laurence Olivier Award due to too few performances. However, he did win a Critics’ Circle Award for Best Shakespearean Performance and his return to the stage was named the Theatre Event of the Year in our own Whatsonstage.com Awards (See News, 15 Feb 2009).
The cast of Hamlet also features Penny Downie as Gertrude, Mariah Gale as Ophelia, Oliver Ford-Davies as Polonius, John Woodvine as the Player King, Peter De Jersey as Horatio, Sam Alexander as Rosencrantz, Tom Davey as Guildenstern, and Edward Bennett (who understudied Tennant in the title role and famously stepped in at less than a day’s notice when the star was injured) as Laertes.
Confirmation of the Hamlet film comes after months of speculation and campaigning by fans. One online petition, set up by RSC patron Margret Best, collected nearly 8,000 signatures. The BBC is creating a dedicated website to support the new film, including behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the actors and creative team.