royal shakespeare company hamlet

This man is by far the best Hamlet I have seen. I was annoyed by the low attendance in the cinema, but his performance completely astounded me. For such a young actor to tackle such a great part as Hamlet is a huge challenge in itself, minus the intensity of this production. From the cultural shifts to the modernising twists, the production truly felt timeless and I felt honoured to be a part of a nationwide audience.

Paapa Essiedu is one of the nation’s up and coming actors, and he has earned his stripes because of this performance. I hope he receives standing ovations for the rest of the run at Stratford.


Benedict Cumberbatch featuring in a comedy segment of the Shakespeare Live! at the RSC - Saturday, 23rd April 2016

Edit: I uploaded this myself, and I hope it works worldwide

Hamlet: Skulls are good to think with

When David Tennant played Hamlet at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2008, there was a brief kerfuffle over the revelation that he’d been using a real skull in the Yorick scene, that of a Polish pianist named Andre Tchaikovsky who bequeathed his skull to the RSC in 1982. Other actors, like Mark Rylance, had rehearsed with the skull before, but Tennant was the first to use a real live skull — or a real dead one — before a paying public. Once the news broke, the real skull was replaced with a fake one when the show transferred to London, although the director, Gregory Doran, muddied the question by later revealing that he never made the switch. He was just trying to hush the chatter. In the Guardian, Jonathan Bate called the incident a “silly sideshow to a great theatrical event.” Given the anecdote’s tenacious grip on our attentions, this bit of theatrical chatter is more than just a sideshow. It’s the main event.

The first thing to be said about the incident is that there’s a long history of actors using real skulls in Hamlet or, more to the point, a long history of theatrical anecdotes about actors claiming to use real skulls in performance — even when they aren’t. As early as 1755, the theater scribbler Paul Hiffernan complained about the regular use of “real Skulls and bones in the Gravedigging Scene of Hamlet, to which a wooden Substitution might be easily made.” The second thing to be said is that such stories are always about Hamlet, which is probably no surprise. No one ever bequeaths a skull so that it might be used in The Revengers Tragedy. It is always Hamlet that makesus lose our heads.

This is due to the fact that the pose of Hamlet, skull in hand, had become as early as 1606 a talisman for theatrical eschatology. In all the iconic poses Hamlet stares into the “eyes” of the skull, searching for signs of life. And yet there’s no one there. Yorick no more has eyes in the front of his head than he does in the back of them. Hamlet might as well stare at the bottom, back, or top of the skull, or — what’s the same — at the theatre’s exit signs. Who is Hamlet looking at, then? Himself? Is the skull a mirror or a lens? Perhaps the preposition is wrong here. Who is Hamlet looking for? He is looking for us. Hamlet stares at the skull and we stare after him — into the desert of the real in which the only oasis is artifice.

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Behind the Scenes of Planet of the Dead - Part Three

Excerpts from “The Doctor’s Tale” by David Tennant, as told to Benjamin Cook in DWM (#407)

Coming back this year, for these Specials, felt a bit like returning to the day job after a summer holiday doing something else. I was worried that it might take a while to get back into it, because this is the longest break that I’ve had between bouts. Is it eight, nine months [since filming The Next Doctor, in April 2008]? Yes, it is. I went off and did this play [the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Hamlet], which I knew was going to be tough - and proved to be - but also was challenging and exciting, something I’m proud to have done. But the level of scrutiny that it got was surprising, and I’m sure that’s because of Doctor Who. It’s been a constant reminder that I’m part of it and that I’m coming back to it. It’s never felt like I’m that far away from it.

At the readthrough for Planet of the Dead, I found it quite tricky to get into the mindset again. I actually felt that I couldn’t remember the Doctor’s voice. But getting on set, putting on the costume and being surrounded by everyone, is like slipping back into something very familiar. It’s like coming home… he says, basking in the sun in Dubai! A welcome return, really. Most of the crew is back. Yeah, it’s the same team. But obviously none of the other actors are back… well, yet.

I don’t think the break has altered my feelings towards leaving after these Specials. In a way, it was sort of the beginning of the end. I got out of the routine of being here, which is, of course, what’s got to happen in a few weeks’ time. Then this will be gone for me. It’s good to remember that there’s a world outside the structure of a nine-month shooting schedule, and I still think I’ve made the right decision. The break didn’t make me regret it, but it did remind me how much I’ll miss Doctor Who and how much fun it is here. It’s made me more appreciative that this is my last stint and I’ve really got to enjoy every minute of it. This show is fun, and it always has been, and I will miss that - but it’s nice to leave while I still feel that way, or I’ll still be here when I’m 80.

The other parts of this photoset: [ one ] [ two ] [ three ] [ four ] [ five ]
[ Masterlist of all behind-the-scenes photosets ]

Thank you to everyone who shares set photos!


act 3 scene 2 from the royal shakespeare company’s 2016 production of hamlet


Hamlet - Behind the Scenes  (Part Four)

From the 3-Part “The Learning Zone” series on David Tennant’s Hamlet

Other parts available here [ one ] [ two ] [ three


Hamlet - Behind the Scenes  (Part Two)

From the 3-Part “The Learning Zone” series on David Tennant’s Hamlet

Other parts available here [ one ] [ three ] [ four ]


David Tennant and Gregory Doran (Artistic Director of the RSC, and director of David in Hamlet, Loves Labour’s Lost, Richard II, Black Comedy, and The Real Inspector Hound)


break, my heart, for i must hold my tongue
words, words, words!

hoping it’s still shakespeare weekend,
here are some old photos recreating DT as Hamlet

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A short but sweet interview with David Tennant on playing Hamlet. Such a genuine and intentional actor.