August 7, 2008

Dr Who’s Tennant Finds the Time to Make Himself a Modern Hamlet


HE is a good, if not a great, Dane.

That was the verdict yesterday after Doctor Who star David Tennant made his longawaited appearance as Hamlet in a Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) production.

The casting of the 37-yearold Scot as the young Danish prince had sparked some barbed comments about theatre companies using big names to fill seats.

But Tennant's performance at The Courtyard Theatre, Stratford- upon-Avon, has been roundly praised by both critics and members of the audience.

The RSC said it was "delighted" with the response. A spokeswoman said: "The audience are really enjoying it.

"We have had a lot of people who were maybe coming to Shakespeare for the first time because of the people who are involved in the project. That has been great for Shakespeare."

Tennant, who trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, in Glasgow appeared with the RSC in several productions before he shot to fame as the 10th Doctor .

He is joined on stage by fellow sci-fi star Patrick Stewart, who plays Claudius in the new version. But it was the casting of Doctor Who as Hamlet which fuelled a wave of publicity surrounding the production, directed by Gregory Doran.

The RSC was inundated with membership applications following the casting announcement and tickets, which are sold at the face value of up to GBP40, have cropped up on eBay for up to GBP500 a pair.

Doctor Who fans also swamped the theatre, eager for the chance to get Tennant's autograph, although they were banned from bringing merchandise from the BBC show for him to sign .

Now the West-End critics have had their first chance to offer a critique on the production.

There was praise for both Tennant and Stewart, although reviewers and fans were divided on whether Tennant will be regarded as one of the best Hamlets.

The theatre news website whatsonstage. com gave the play five stars. Its review said: "David Tennant may be television's Doctor Who getting above himself, according to snobs and ignoramuses . . . but he's a really fine, athletic and technically accomplished classical actor to boot.

"This is easily the most complete Hamlet of recent years, and one of the most enjoyable."

However, one audience member, writing on Flickfilosopher. com, said: "This was a good Hamlet but definitely not a great Hamlet. I'm a big Shakespeare fan and a big Dr Who fan so I was really looking forward to this but personally I didn't think Tennant's interpretation had enough oomph at times, particularly in the soliloquies."

Tennant's appearance on stage has provoked speculation that he will not reprise his role as Doctor Who when it returns to the BBC in 2010. A spokeswoman said last night that the actor was committed to playing the Doctor in a Christmas special this year and four further specials next year.

She said any speculation surrounding series five was "premature".

The RSC production will run in Stratford-upon-Avon until November and will then travel to the Novello Theatre in London's West End for a two-month stint.

Meanwhile, an actress will take on the male role of Hamlet in a production being performed this week at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Kate Brinton, head girl at Gordonstoun School is following in the footsteps of both Prince Charles and the Duke of Edinburgh, who appeared in Shakespeare plays while they were pupils at the boarding school.

Prince Philip played both Hamlet and Macbeth, while Prince Charles also performed as the lead in the Scottish play when he was head boy.

Miss Brinton, 18, said: "This is my second role in a Shakespeare production for Gordonstoun.

"After touring the US last year in Macbeth, it's a real honour to play the leading role in this year's Hamlet.

"It's a fantastic show and although it has been an unusual and testing experience for me to play a male role, I have enjoyed it enormously. " The production of Hamlet: Shadow of a Man, which involves almost 70 of the school's older pupils, is being performed at Edinburgh Academy as part of the Fringe this week.

Originally published by Newsquest Media Group.

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