Olivier Award-winning actor Simon Russell Beale begins an extensive national and international tour of his long-awaited Hamlet this month, a tour which will include a run at the real-life place where the play is set. In between touring engagements, the tragedy will also be performed at the National s Lyttelton Theatre, where it opens on 5 September 2000, following previews from 20 August.

The NT production, currently at the Malvern Theatres, begins a week at the Hamlet Summer Festival in Elsinore, Denmark, on 14 August 2000. There, it will be performed in the open-air courtyard of Kronborg Castle, the very place where Shakespeare chose to set the play. By performing Hamlet at Elsinore, Beale follows in the footsteps of John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier (who played the role there in 1937).

This production of Hamlet is directed by John Caird, who worked with Simon Russell Beale with great success last year on Money and Candide. The latter won an Olivier for Best Musical Production and earned Beale another Olivier for Best Actor in a Musical.

Beale s previous Shakespeare roles include Iago in Othello for the National, and Richard III (title role), Thersites in Troilus and Cressida and Ariel in The Tempest for the RSC. His other work for the National includes Summerfolk, Battle Royal and Volpone. On television, he won the BAFTA Best Actor Award for Channel 4 s A Dance to the Music of Time, and his films include An Ideal Husband and Alice in Wonderland.

The distinguished cast of Hamlet also features Cathryn Bradshaw (as Ophelia), Sara Kestelman (Gertrude), Peter McEnery (Claudius), Dennis Quilley (Polonius and the Gravedigger) and Simon Day (Laertes), as well as Paul Bazely, Martin Chamberlain, Ken Oxtoby and Michael Wildman. The production is designed by Tim Hatley with lighting by Paul Pyant, music by John Cameron and sound by Christopher Shutt.

During the rest of 2000 and into 2001, Hamlet will also visit Brighton, Glasgow, Sheffield, Bath, Aberdeen and Newcastle, with international engagements in Dublin, Oslo, Stockholm and other cities.