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LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST

Saturday, August 9, 2008

DAVID BALDWIN'S HAMLET REVIEW

David Tennant thrills in Hamlet
by DAVID BALDWIN - Wednesday, August 6, 2008

At the time of writing, if you want to pick up a good pair of seats for this sold out production of Hamlet on eBay, you'll have to shell out about £500.

It's not something the RSC is happy about, but no matter how often the company tries to distract from the issue, with Tennant unavailable for interview and Doctor Who deleted from his CV in the programme, this is very much the David Tennant show.

Of course, there's far more to this Hamlet than just a star turn. The rest of the cast is made up of such accomplished performers as Patrick Stewart and Oliver Ford Davies, whose amusing Polonius mumbles away in his own little world.

Similarly, director Gregory Doran includes some nice touches, the first scene featuring actors' faces lit only by large torch beams bouncing off the mirrored floor.

He also seems to have a thing for grotesque drag, with a creepy dumb show wherein Hamlet tries to catch out his murderous father-in-law Claudius, featuring a gurning male queen and some hugely unsubtle rumpy-pumpy.

But what about Tennant? Well, remove the huge weight of expectation his fame gives this performance, and there's no denying that he's very good.

In his more manic phases, he energetically zips around the stage, light-footed, wide-eyed and occasionally doing silly voices. What Tennant doesn't really bring to the role is any weight; there's no sense of righteous anger here, no earth-shattering grief.

That doesn't make this a bad performance though, merely a different interpretation of the role. Doran seems to have understood what would suit Tennant best and gone with that, which pays dividends.

This is unlikely to be remembered as a legendary performance, but who said it would? It's not a Hamlet for the ages, but rather one for the here and now.

Until Nov 15, The Courtyard Theatre, Waterside, Stratford-upon-Avon, this week: tomorrow 7.15pm, mat Sat 1pm, £5 to £38, concs available, sold out, returns only. Tel: 0844 800 1110. www.rsc.org.uk
All in all, David has had some great reviews.

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