Shakespeare 400 - Hamlet

A production of the Royal Shakespeare Company

Part of Shakespeare 400 On Screen, presented in association with the University of Ottawa

Shakespeare 400 logo by Sarah Tuefee‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Star Trek’ fans drove up ticket prices for this sold-out Hamlet when it opened at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2008, but the production has much more to offer than a chance to see the Time Lord (David Tennant) and Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) face off as Shakespeare’s melancholy Dane and his cunning uncle.

Poster art for Hamlet (Royal Shakespeare Company)Director Doran understands the RSC’s esprit de corps as well as any director alive, and Tennant is very much first among equals in an ensemble of uniformly deft and detailed performances. Oliver Ford Davis, an actor unfamiliar to audiences outside Stratford-upon-Avon, is a sublimely pedantic Polonius. Tennant’s Hamlet, in an unusual choice, entirely yields the scholarly high ground to Polonius, by turns hilarious, terrifying, and heartbreaking rather than intellectual. Theirs and all the family relationships are richly nuanced, believable without devolving into the Oedipal psychology that Freud partly derived from his own reading of this play.

Watch for Stewart doubling as the ghost of Hamlet’s father, reaching out a hand to console  Gertrude (Penny Downie) in a nice moment that captures the detailed, well developed, coherent interpretation discernible throughout this remarkable production.

– Kathryn Prince, University of Ottawa

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