The Stratford season is long sold out (See News, 5 Aug 2008) – with queues forming daily (starting the night before) for returns and a limited number of ten £5 tickets held back for under-25s – and the London dates have nearly sold out to RSC members, who’ve had priority booking access since 16 June ahead of public booking which opens at 10.00am on 12 September, when a further allocation will be released.
Prior to their screen successes, Tennant and Stewart had both racked up myriad RSC and other stage credits. They’re joined in the cast by Penny Downie (as Gertrude), Oliver Ford Davies (Polonius), Peter de Jersey (Horatio), Edward Bennett (Laertes), John Woodvine (the Player King) and Mariah Gale (Ophelia). The production is designed by Robert Jones, with lighting by Tim Mitchell, music by Paul Englishby, sound by Jeremy Dunn, movement by Michael Ashcroft and fight direction by Terry King.
Critics couldn’t resist a Tardis quip or two, but despite this, for the majority, Tennant was able to overcome the hype and prove his abilities as a “really fine, athletic and technically accomplished classical actor”. A few noted that if he hasn’t yet entered the “pantheon of the great Hamlets”, there’s still time for improvement before the production’s London transfer. Elsewhere there was high praise for Patrick Stewart’s “supremely composed” Claudius, Mariah Gale’s Ophelia and Oliver Ford Davies’ Polonius. A few critics were sceptical about Gregory Doran’s cuts to the original text, particularly in the final scenes, but overall, there was great excitement surrounding this “full-value production”.
- by Kate Jackson