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Tennant’s Hamlet Opens, Stage Door Restrictions

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Doctor Who star David Tennant’s wildly anticipated Hamlet for the Royal Shakespeare Company opens tonight (5 August 2008, previews from 24 July) at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, where it plays in rep until 15 November 2008, before transferring for a straight West End run from 9 December 2008 (previews from 3 December) to 10 January 2009 at the Novello Theatre (See News, 9 Jun 2008).

The Stratford season is long sold out – 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.

The growing – and baying - crowds that have been gathering outside the Courtyard Theatre for Tennant (pictured) and fellow sci-fi star Patrick Stewart, who’s best known to Star Trek fans as Captain Picard and who plays Claudius and the Ghost in Hamlet, have forced the RSC to provide protective escorts for the actors and impose an autograph ban on non-Hamlet-related materials. Doctor Who, Star Trek and other memorabilia will not be signed. A statement issued by the RSC explained that “the sheer volume of requests means that we need to set some limits”.

An email has also been sent to ticket bookers reminding them of the theatre’s photography policy. “Given the profile of the actors who are involved in our production of Hamlet, we understand that there might be a temptation to record or photograph parts of the production. This can be incredibly distracting to actors and other audience members and can cause significant disruption to the performance. We ask that you do not take photographs whilst in the Courtyard Theatre … Should anyone breach these conditions they may be refused admission or asked to leave during the performance.”

The photography policy does not apply outside the Courtyard where the actors have been bombarded with fans armed with mobile phone cameras and other recording devices. One has already posted a Youtube video showing her battle to obtain Tennant’s autograph amidst the stage door frenzy.

Prior to their screen successes, Tennant and Stewart had both racked up myriad RSC and other stage credits. They’re joined in the cast of RSC chief associate Gregory Doran’s production 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.

Hamlet is cross-cast with Doran’s already-running production of A Midsummer Night\'s Dream and his upcoming production of Love\'s Labour\'s Lost, the RSC’s first staging of the play in more than 12 years, in which David Tennant will play the lovelorn Berowne with Mariah Gale as the Princess of France, Nina Sosanya as Rosaline and Oliver Ford-Davies as Holofernes. Love\'s Labour\'s joins the Courtyard rep from 2 October to 15 November 2008.

- by Terri Paddock


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