Bennett\'s promotion led to a last minute re-shuffle of the ensemble cast. Bennett\'s usual role, Laertes, was taken by Tom Davey, with Ricky Champ stepping in as Guildernstern and Robert Curtis as Lucianus. The other principals were unchanged, with Patrick Stewart doubling as the Ghost/Claudius, Penny Downie as Gertrude, Mariah Gale as Ophelia and Oliver Ford Davies as Polonius.
The production has enjoyed unprecedented interest since Tennant\'s casting was announced last year. The Courtyard stage door was beseiged by Doctor Who fans during the Stratford-upon-Avon run, while tickets for the Novello transfer sold out in hours, with the recent emergence of a number of forgeries creating a further headache for the box office. It continues at the Novello until 10 January, with no confirmation at this stage of when Tennant will return.
Overnight critics were quick to acknowledge the “sheer nerve and self-confidence” of Bennett stepping up to deliver a “word-perfect” performance at such short notice. Most had also reviewed Tennant\'s performance in Stratford, and pointed to marked differences between the two actors, notably Bennett\'s “emotionally-withdrawn” interpretation of the role versus the “quicksilver wit” inherent in Tennant\'s. The supporting cast were roundly praised, with Patrick Stewart\'s “masterly” Claudius and Penny Downie\'s “stricken” Gertrude proving palpable hits, while Oliver Ford Davies moved Michael Billington to question “when was there a better Polonius?” Despite quibbles over director Doran\'s “strange cuts\", particularly his decision to reduce Fortinbras to a mute role, most were happy to grant Bennett \"a well-merited moment in the sun”.
- by Theo Bosanquet