David Tennant: The Man Who Would be Hamlet
On television, David Tennant plays an immortal time lord from the planet Gallifrey who saves humanity and the universe countless times. Starting this week at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, the 37-year-old actor will take on the role of Hamlet, the Danish prince who can’t quite work up the conviction to avenge his father’s murder. For good measure, the production will also feature Patrick Stewart, formerly Captain Picard of the Starship Enterprise on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” in the dual roles of Polonius and the ghost of Hamlet’s father. The combination of sci fi royalty and one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies has generated sold out shows and plenty of media attention.
While some critics scoff at placing television actors on the legitimate stage, others point out that both Tennant and Stewart were accomplished Shakespearean actors long before becoming intergalactic heroes. The question of what Tennant will bring to the role of Hamlet was a hot topic in the British media this weekend. Here’s a round-up of what the critics said.
Roger Foss of What’s On Stage starts by going directly to the director of “Hamlet.” He writes, “When the same question was put to Royal Shakespeare Company associate director Gregory Doran about David Tennant being the latest actor to take on Hamlet, the longest role in Shakespeare, he answered: “David has great intelligence to tackle this role. It feels that there is no such thing as a definitive Hamlet – there are only an infinitive number of Hamlets. What he will get is the excitement of the role, the drive – Hamlet’s experience of grief, his experience of what it is to grow up. All those things he will approach with a freshness, a kind of ‘new’.” Foss offers his own opinion saying, “As anyone who has seen Tennant playing a gallery of non-sci-fi characters in the theatre will confirm, to be or not to be one of our finest stage actors was never in doubt. He’s a natural. As Tennant once said himself, stage work is his “default way of being.” (Read the complete article)
Matthew Sweet of The Independent finds a serious parallel between playing the Doctor and undertaking the role of Hamlet. He explains, “It’s hard to be unaware that you are watching only the latest of a long line of interpreters. New Doctors must overwhelm or accommodate the shades of William Hartnell and Tom Baker just as new Hamlets must compete with the ghosts of Olivier, Gielgud and David Warner. Tennant has already performed one successful act of exorcism. He seems destined to complete a second.” (Read the entire Independent article)
Finally, Diane Parks of the Birmingham Mail gives us a glimpse into how actors at the Royal Shakespeare Company feel about working Tennant now that he is one of the biggest television stars in the UK. She quotes Tennant as saying, “It’s an incredibly friendly company which is a great relief. Most of the company have already done A Midsummer Night’s Dream so they would have been perfectly within their rights to be a little bit sniffy about a new boy coming in to do the next show but they’ve been very welcoming and enthusiastic.” (Read the full Birmingham Mail article)
In addition to playing Hamlet, Tennant will also play the role of Berowne this summer in the RSC’s production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost.”
For many of Tennant’s fans there’s a bigger question than how he’ll fare as Hamlet: to return or not to return for another season of Dr. Who? It appears Tennant will indeed return for more of the Doctor’s outrageous fortunes. The Daily Mail reports, “David Tennant is close to signing a £1.5million deal to remain as Doctor Who…BBC bosses are set to offer Tennant, a massive deal to encourage him to stay on when the sci-fi show returns for a full series in 2010.” (Read the complete Mail report)
Love’s Labour’s Lost plays in repertoire at The Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon from 2 October - 15 November 2008.