David Tennant as Hamlet

Posted on: 02/12/2008

David Tennant as Hamlet


Review of Hamlet

At the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Courtyard Theatre, Stratford Upon-Avon

2008 production

Rating:  *****

Written by Sam Hilton


David Tennant, widely known as the most recent TV’s Dr Who, is becoming well respected for his portrayal of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, which he has been playing at the RSC’s Stratford Upon-Avon’s Courtyard Theatre.


David Tennant’s performance was truly captivating. As he entered, it was clear who owned the stage. As he crosses the stage, unnoticed he stands in the corner, holding a champagne glass. As soon as the supporting cast leave him alone, he falls to the floor in utter despair, grief and rage over the death of his father, and the quick re-marriage of his mother to his uncle Claudius.


Despite this shocking rage and grief, Tennant also portrays Hamlet’s madness well. He is quick-witted and has a crazed energy about him, which he portrays well throughout. He jumps over the stage with such boyish energy; it can bring a smile to any fan’s face, reminding them of their very own Doctor.


Apart from Tennant in this wonderful play, many other famous faces also star. Patrick Stewart, known to many as Star Trek’s Captain Jean-Luc-Picard, plays Claudius and the ghost of Hamlet’s father. His portrayal of the role, Claudius, is also extremely chilling and a thrill to watch. When Stewart enters as the ghost in the first scene he sends shivers down people’s spines, his eyes stay totally fixed on the people around him, slicing them in two, with just one look. Oliver-Ford-Davies, also a highly respected actor, plays Polonius. He has starred as the Archbishop of Canterbury in Johnny English.


Many may think of Tennant as just a TV actor, but in this play he shows true diversity. In a matter of moments, he changes the moods of the character with no difficulty. By returning to his theatrical roots, he has shown how he can deliver anything and everything well.


If anyone thinks that this is just another one of Shakespeare’s boring old plays, they are wrong. Hamlet is an interesting story about how he, the Prince of Denmark, is seeking revenge against his evil uncle Claudius for the murder of his father, but covers it up with madness.


The audience thoroughly enjoyed it; they gave a standing ovation as Tennant, Stewart and the supporting cast came on for several encores, as the audience kept on cheering.


Many may criticise how the director, Gregory Doran has cut parts of the play. This new look is revitalising and attracts new people to the theatre, who may have never seen a Shakespeare play before. The director has modernised the play, but he hasn’t cut out major scenes that are vital. He has kept the most famous scenes, such as: “To be or not to be” “Alas poor Yorick, I knew him.”

Also by putting the actors/actresses in modern clothes makes the play more understandable for the new theatregoers. In the “To be or not to be” scene Tennant came on sporting a nice t-shirt, jeans and bare-footed look. This was appealing to the younger generation in the theatre.


Lighting was used well to set the scene. For the backdrop of the stage, there are massive mirrors, which reflect any light that is used to show mood and feeling.


When Hamlet (Tennant) shoots Polonius (Act 3 Scene 4), the mirrors smash in a fraction of a second into a crooked, cracked outlook on part of the stage, and they remain like it throughout to show how Hamlet is slowly becoming more revengeful and unhappy.


Sound is also used effectively. As the ghost of Hamlet’s father exits (after telling Hamlet about his murder), his voice is amplified throughout the room to make the scene even more chilling. He is shouting at Hamlet to “Swear!” on his sword that he will never speak of what he discussed with the ghost ever (Act 1 Scene 5).


Overall this version of Hamlet is amazing and I highly recommend it. Tennant plays this part excellently and should be highly praised.


Hamlet has now finished playing at Stratford-Upon Avon, but resumed at London’s Novello Theatre on December 3, 2008.


Have you seen this version of Hamlet? What did you think of it? Add your comments below.


2 Responses to "David Tennant as Hamlet"

Hey, i thought your review was really good! It has made me want to go and see Hamlet it sounds exciting and a good play to watch.

i soooo should have come with you to see dat!! Q James Bond music!!

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