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Tennant Hamlet Leads RSC London Season in Dec

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As previously reported (See News, 11 Sep 2007), David Tennant (pictured) will bring his Royal Shakespeare Company Hamlet to the West End this Christmas following its run in Stratford-upon-Avon. The production, directed by RSC chief associate Gregory Doran, is now confirmed to launch the company’s winter West End residency at the Novello Theatre, as part of a five-year arrangement with theatre owner Cameron Mackintosh.

Hamlet runs at the Novello from 9 December 2008 (previews from 3 December) to 10 January 2009 and is followed by Doran’s cross-cast production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, from 20 January to 7 February (previews from 15 January), and Conall Morrison’s production of The Taming of the Shrew, starring Stephen Boxer and Michelle Gomez, from 17 February to 7 March (previews from 12 February).

All three productions come direct from the RSC’s Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. One of the year’s most anticipated theatre events, Hamlet runs in rep from 5 August to 15 November 2008 (previews from 24 July) in Stratford, where Tennant will also be playing Berowne in Doran’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost, which will not be transferring to London.

The Hamlet cast also features (See News, 27 May 2008): Patrick Stewart (as the Ghost and Claudius), fresh from his Tony-nominated run in Macbeth on Broadway, Penny Downie (Gertrude), Oliver Ford Davies (Polonius), John Woodvine (the Player King) and Mariah Gale (Ophelia).

Commenting on Tennant’s titular casting, director Gregory Doran has said: “Hamlet is a play that waits for the right actor to come along. This Hamlet will be to some extent who David is. You have to have an actor who can be, as Ophelia describes him, ‘the poet, the soldier, the scholar’. He has to be someone who is charismatic and can be brutal and coarse, and can be witty and moving and can physically take on the demands of the part. I believe that David’s skills fill all these criteria.”

Elsewhere in London this winter, the RSC will bring two new plays, both commissioned by the company, for a two-month residency at Wilton’s Music Hall. The Tragedy of Thomas Hobbes, written and directed by Adriano Shaplin, will run from 18 November to 6 December 2008 (previews from 12 November), followed by Marina Carr’s The Cordelia Dream from 16 December (previews from 11 December) to 10 January 2009.

RSC artistic director Michael Boyd commented: “Adriano Shaplin’s new play The Tragedy of Thomas Hobbes was completed during his time as writer-in-residence, working in the rehearsal room directly with the Histories company, exploring epic theatre-making and grappling with the clash between art and science. Marina Carr has drawn on the universal themes from King Lear as the starting point for her two-hander The Cordelia Dream. Both will be cross-cast from the Stratford ensemble, allowing our actors to flex their muscles on both Shakespeare and contemporary writing.”

Vikki Heywood, RSC executive director, said of the company’s London activities: “The RSC is pleased to continue its agreement with Delfont Mackintosh to use the Novello Theatre, alongside other London venues. It’s great to be returning there with three Shakespeare plays direct from the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford, and to be taking new work to the beautiful and evocative space of Wilton’s Music Hall.

“This year we’ve hardly paused for breath as we’ve criss-crossed the capital - from the Hackney Empire in east London (to which we’re returning next year with Othello as part of a national tour) to the Tricycle and at the Roundhouse in north London, and the Soho and New London theatres in the West End – selling out shows all over town and reaching new and more diverse audiences. Between November 2007 and May 2008, over 97,000 people have seen us in the capital.”

- by Terri Paddock


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