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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

because fans can often be idiots

David Tennant’s Hamlet starts previewing in Stratford-upon-Avon tonight — in fact, the curtain’s just gone up now, as I write this. Which surprises me, actually, because the Royal Shakespeare Company sent an email to ticket holders today that included this bit of loveliness:

Given the profile of the actors who are involved in our production of Hamlet we understand that there might be a temptation to record or photograph parts of the production. This can be incredibly distracting to actors and other audience members and can cause significant disruption to the performance. We ask that you do not take photographs whilst in The Courtyard Theatre.

For further information we ask that you refer to the Terms and Conditions of Sale printed on the reverse of your tickets or visit the RSC Website.

We hope that you will understand that should anyone breach these conditions they may be refused admission or ask them to leave during the performance.

If you would like images of the production, there are souvenir high quality production images available to buy in our shops in the form of postcard packs, posters and programmes.

No actors are named in this little missive, but there is a picture of Tennant in costume as the Dane illustrating it.

When I read this, I figured that surely the show must have hit the boards a few days ago, and that Doctor Who dorks with no experience of live theater — and no concern for their fellow theatergoers, or indeed even for the actor they profess to love so much — had already been making a nuisance of themselves. But apparently the RSC is just being proactive.

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  • FrankS

    No, apparently the dorks are running amok.

    “Fans of Doctor Who and Star Trek have been told to lay off autograph hunting at the stage door of the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford, where David Tennant and Patrick Stewart are thesping it up in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet.

    The ban comes after fans apparently started turning up at the venue with ‘bags’ of Who goodies, hoping to get Tennant’s mark on their memorabilia. The RSC declared: “Due to the huge amount of interest in the RSC’s current production of Hamlet, only Royal Shakespeare Company or production related memorabilia will be signed by members of the company.

    It is very flattering that there is so much interest in this production, but the sheer volume of requests means that we need to set some limits which will be as fair as possible for everyone. We apologise if this causes any disappointment.”

    That’s from The Register (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/07/24/hamlet_ban/)

  • Joanne

    Meanwhile from http://www.david-tennant.com:

    Hamlet: Stage Door, Theatre Etiquette etc

    Just a quick note that to avoid disappointment it should be noted that it is impossible to predict on any given night whether any of the performers will be available to make an appearance at the stage door.
    If you do see David after a performance please be respectful of his time and privacy. Don’t forget that he will have just performed a very demanding role and he won’t have time to sign mountains of memorabilia.
    If you are unsure about theatre etiquette, what you are and aren’t allowed to do and how to be as considerate to the cast and fellow audiences members as possible then here are a few of the main points you need to know:

    * One of the most unwelcome things in the theatre has to be the mobile phone. Mobile phones (along with anything else that bleeps, buzzes or makes any kind of electrical noise) should be switched off well in advance.
    * Cameras, video and tape recorders are strictly prohibited in the theatre.
    * Once you have taken your seats in the theatre you are advised to remain in them until the interval so make sure you are comfortable and have everything you need before the curtain rises.
    * Although the performance tends to be exciting and enjoyable, noise from the audience can be very distracting for the performers, so the audience will be expected to sit quietly in their seats during the performance.

    We hope you all enjoy the show and have a great time!

    I didn’t realise there were people who were unaware they shouldn’t sit quietly during the performance!

    I remember going to see Ian McKellen in the woefully not sold-out Dance of Death in London in 2003. We went to the stage door afterwards along with a handful of others – and a bloke who clearly hadn’t seen the show but had a whole bag of LOTR posters and so on to be signed. McKellen took ages to appear but was a complete gentleman when he did, giving everyone some time.

    I suppose potentially having DW and Star Trek fans hanging round at once could cause some major issues!

  • I’m fascinated you got that by email, and a bit worried, cos I haven’t had one. Are you an RSC friends member?

    The not on dt.com is a good idea though. This production will attract people who have never been to the theatre before, who are just coming because they’ve seen Tennant or Stewart on the telly. Why should they know what’s expected?

  • PaulW

    If the camera doofs are out in force, David should do what I did back in the 8th grade:


  • melissa

    I’m glad this missive has gone out, although I still expect many theatre goers to be poorly behaved, sadly. I hope the theatre can quash most of it so those of us who adore Hamlet (and consider Tennant and Stewart an added bonus, geeks that we are) can enjoy it without whispering and camera flashes and other horrid behavior.

  • My goodness, I had no idea sci-fi fans can be that clueless. Its only polite not to take photos inside the theater. Its ridiculous that they actually get away with this.

  • Carey

    I recently saw Eddie Izzard here in the States, and my fellow theater-goers were woefully unaware of common courtesy, apparently. I heard a few phones go off, saw several people video-ing and/or picture taking with their phones, and most annoyingly, people kept getting up and wandering around all through the show, blocking the view for the rest of us. I wouldn’t have believed so many people were so rude, but I hope the notes send out by RSC will make a difference!

  • i have to say of all rude theatre (whether movie or stage) behavior, second only to talking *at all* during the entertainment, is the constant to-ing and fro-ing that goes on! for godssake! it’s *two hours*! is your bladder really that small? are you really that restless? stay home!

    i have attended other theatrical performances where the actor on stage is some well-known figure — the problem is most of the people attending to see that person (usually a him) have never gone to the theatre before! case in point: patrick stewart doing A Christmas Carol as a one-man show… the audience nearly drove me to distraction! i’m a theatre geek (as well as the usual sort of geek) and i couldn’t stand it… tickets are so expensive and the whole experience is nearly destroyed by the obvious cluelessness of geeky fan-folk who just don’t get that they’re supposed to be losing themselves in the performance.

    i fully anticipate being totally distraught at the Hamlet performance, perhaps leading to my arrest.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m fascinated you got that by email, and a bit worried, cos I haven’t had one. Are you an RSC friends member?

    The friend with whom I’m traveling to England is a member of the RSC. She got the email as the buyer of our tix.

    I had no idea sci-fi fans can be that clueless.

    It’s not all SF fans, but the subset that consists of weirdly unsocialized people who are attracted to SF. I see these people all the time at SF conventions: they don’t understand personal boundaries and appear to have little empathy for the needs and comforts of others, whether other fans or the people they’re fans of.

    I wouldn’t call these people stalkerish, but I suspect that the rare stalkers come from this group. These are the people who really don’t understand that Their Favorite Star isn’t interested in talking to them for an hour.

    My fan horror story: I saw Patrick Stewart do his one-man *Christmas Carol* on Broadway, and the audience was a nightmare. Not everyone, of course, but all it takes is a few people in your vicinity who can’t sit still or can’t stop themselves from muttering or outright talking back to the stage. This was before cell phones. I’m sure it’ll be worse now.

    I am SO not doing the stage door thing. There’s nothing worse than being a normal fan who’s mistaken for one of the weirdoes.

  • I was visiting one of my favorite art galleries here in Charlotte a few years ago, on a Saturday during one of the race weeks, when BAM! all of a sudden Leonard Nimoy comes in with a PR person, apparently charged with getting him from place to place. (Most people do not realize that in addition to being an actor, he is also an avid photographer whose photos sell for pretty big bucks, and he is quite the art collector.)

    Now, I am a pretty hard-core SF geek, and I’ve watched my fair share of Star Trek, so I could have gotten all fanboy on him. But I chose the path of restraint: I didn’t say “OMG, Spock!” or do the Vulcan salute or any of that mess. I didn’t even talk to the man. (I did talk to the PR person for a while. There was no one else in the gallery, so Nimoy didn’t need protecting from anyone.) I’ve met enough celebrities to know that most of the time, they just want to do their thing and not be mobbed by fans.

    And that makes for a much cooler story.

  • Mo

    Good grief, it looks like the poor guy can’t even go out to get some lunch according to the director. Even during rehersals there were fans waiting outside: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2008/07/23/bthamlet123.xml

    “Now he can’t set foot outside the rehearsal room without avid autograph-hunters and infatuated fans moving in on him. “We were going to meet in a local cafe to have a chat,” Doran says. “But David said, ‘I can’t go there now. It just turns into a sci-fi convention.'””

  • t6

    * Although the performance tends to be exciting and enjoyable, noise from the audience can be very distracting for the performers, so the audience will be expected to sit quietly in their seats during the performance.

    What is every interesting about this is that this is not the way it would have been the expectation of an audience member in Shakespeare’s time…or even much later. The interactivity between audience and performer (which is what all that breaking of the fourth wall is also about) was expected and lasted a long time…still exists in some places.

    Highbrow/Lowbrow: The emergence of cultural hierarchy in America by Lawrence Levine is a fascinating book about the emergence of the middle class during the Industrial Revolution and how that middle class, in needing to create a class cultural identity, changed not only audience behavioral norms, but also acting styles as well. Shakespeare, Opera, and classical music were all part of working class culture…until the new middle class alienated the masses from that entertainment by changing the experience around it and the meaning wrapped up in it. Great book…I recommend it.

    But one way or another, we are all living in a post-Wagner theatre-as-church sort of paradigm…so no talking in the theatre.

    I’m hoping to find a really good progressive/historical theatre one day where it is not only acceptable, but encouraged to interact with these works as they were intended. Crying at Juliette’s death, booing at Iago…cheering at Henry V.

  • MaryAnn

    The highbrow/lowbrow argument may be valid — I’m certainly heard it before — but that’s not what’s going on with these fans. These are people for whom societal norms mean nothing. Which isn’t always a bad thing — breaking conformity can be a good thing. But some rules about how to interact with your fellow human beings are needed, and these people flout them… and worse, they do it without realizing they are doing it, so they can’t even be shamed into behaving themselves.

    Of course, it doesn’t help the entire situation when Gregory Doran, who’s directing Tennant in Hamlet, says stuff like this (from the Telegraph article linked in comments above):

    But I stopped watching [Doctor Who] when I was about 10, really, which is probably healthy.

    There *is* a middle ground between being an unsocialized nutter and appreciating that SF can have something more sophisticated to say than a 10-year-old can appreciate.

  • t6

    I agree with you MAJ.

    And even recognizing that there are forms of interactivity that are “in genre” as it were…there are forms of interactivity that are…well…stalking. Or inappropriate.

    I mean, I had no sympathy when one film going companion many, many years ago complained that she couldn’t hear all the dialogue to the Rocky Horror Picture Show due to all the audience shoutouts…which meant she missed the point of the experience.

    On the other hand, I was particularly annoyed about two film going companions who chatted loudly the entire way through Jarhead about how hot Jake G. was–since that wasn’t really appropriate to the environment of that film.

    Additionally, entertainment culture has changed…so no getting up and walking around, hiring prostitutes, throwing tomatoes, demanding Tennant encore the To Be or Not To Be speech right then and there because you loved it, cell phones, cameras, chatting, calling out “I love you!” etc.

  • Mo

    “The interactivity between audience and performer (which is what all that breaking of the fourth wall is also about) was expected and lasted a long time…still exists in some places.”

    There is a Shakespearean troupe I used to go see a lot that was a bit like that. Some people I know would even bring big picnic lunches along with them (it was always outdoors in a park) to share with the actors so that they would sit with them between scenes. Shakespeare’s comedies especially lend themselves to ad-libbing with the audience and it really does bring the plays to life in a fun and different way.

    But even with that group the BIG plays like Hamlet or Richard III needed a lot more respect. They can take a lot out of the performers even without distractions and nothing can break a tense moment quite like a camera flash or a cell phone going off. I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like in Stratford when the 16-year-old fangirls who think “stalker” is a compliment show up cameras in hand if the theatre didn’t set some boundaries early on.

  • Paul Hayes

    “I am SO not doing the stage door thing. There’s nothing worse than being a normal fan who’s mistaken for one of the weirdoes.”

    Oh come on – we’re discussing this show on the internet! That ship sailed long ago!

  • Maura

    Honestly, I would think it probably isn’t really sci-fi fans that are going to be the biggest problem here; it’s just going to be young people who think David Tennant is hot. I get the impression Doctor Who is considered a lot more mainstream in the UK.

  • dr who is definitely mainstream here. the final had about 1/6 of the population watch it. the xmas special was the second highest rating tv show of the year. david tennant is a very big star. and its been big for 40 years.

  • Martin

    Yeah, it’s not really going to be the geeks (although Picard meeting the Doctor has to be someone’s fan fiction wet dream) on the whole, it’ll be the obsessive young girls (and guys, I suppose). Anyone that can’t tell the difference between a character and the actor.

    The problem is, this is going to attract people that have never been to the theatre before and rather than being nervous about what to do so you just stay still and be quiet until you gauge the feeling of the room, they’ll just do as they please and only really paying attention when Tennant and “That guy from Star Trek” turn up.

    Shepherd Book was right, there is a special place in hell for them.

  • MaryAnn

    Oh come on – we’re discussing this show on the internet! That ship sailed long ago!

    No, it didn’t. Discussing a show, even discussing it passionately, is the same as bugging some poor actor to the point of harrassment? I don’t think so.

  • A few years ago I caught Macbeth with Sean Bean in the West End. I have read/seen that play many times, I go to the theatre if not frequently, than frequenly enough to know how to behave myself and I got so caught up in the production that I wound up not even breathing during one scene, and nearly blurted “behind you!” right before Macbeth is killed. I may as well have been at a panto at that point.

    I don’t mind strong reactions in the theatre – as someone who has been on stage a few times, it’s very frustrating to have an audience that may as well be watching TV – but chatting with your buddies, or making phone calls or whatever seems a bit ill-socialized for any venue.

    I did want to get the whole cast to sign my program after the show, but there was a particularly off-putting bunny-rubber with a bag full of Boromir tchotchkes who kind of glommed on to us, and I preferred not to be associated with that. I’ll gladly wait in line and geek out at a con while someone signs my action figures or whatever, but there’s a time and place for everything. Hope the fangirls/boys have calmed the hell down and have figured out how to act like grown ups by the time I see Hamlet and Loves Labour in November.

  • Maura

    The problem comes with people who aren’t there to see the play. MaryAnn is going to see this production mostly because of Tennant, I assume, but she wants to *see the play.* The people who are going to cause problems are the ones who are there ONLY to see Real Live David Tennant, who will be forced to remain in front of them for the better part of three hours, unlike a typical media appearance. What he’s there to do won’t matter to them. And it’s a pity, because the production and the play and all the work of everyone in it will be completely wasted on them.

    I heard that production of Macbeth was really good– review? :) I’m a huge fan of Sean Bean.

  • Joanne

    Not nerdycellist, but I saw Bean’s Scottish Play too – it was excellent. Samantha “Moneypenny” Bond was Lady M and she was really good; they sparked off each other well. Bean played him as an old soldier – a bit rough-cut, using his Sheffield accent, which I liked. I was glad to have seen it. Just wish I could see this Hamlet!

  • I echo Joanne’s review, and add that the whole cast was excellent. The production seemed very consistent, and that’s really what transported me into that world for a couple of hours. The same week I saw Macbeth, I also got to see Derek Jacobi in The Tempest, and while he was superb in it, the production wasn’t quite as total as Macbeth; I did remember I was in a theatre. Incidentally, there was a whole other kind a jack-ass theatre-goer at The Tempest; the sterotypical Ugly American. She (and her Husband) made themselves quite known, especially at the coat-check, when they complained loudly about the slowness of the service (how fast were the coat-check folks supposed to go?) and implied their own importance several times. As much as I have occasionally been glad I’m not wearing any of my nerd-markers at The Theatre, that was one of those nights when I wished I could make myself sound more Canadian.

  • Heather

    I’ll third (fourth?)the recommendations for the Sean Bean’s Macbeth, I got to see it when they extended the run, and managed to get a seat right in the middle of the upper circle. Every time he strode to centre stage and started declaiming, it was right in front of me.Marvellous.

    It took me three goes to see a decent Macbeth. Prior to that, I’d see Rylance and Horrock, (bizarre, but not the worst version I saw) and then a weird interpretive dance one. (The only time I’ve ever left the theatre at the interval. Most of the rest of the audience did too).

    I’m hoping that the fannish people will have calmed down by the time I get to go in October. We’re a group of fans, admittedly, but we all know how to behave, and would enjoy Shakespeare in Stratford, regardless of who was in it!

    Mind you, its not just fans who can be inconsiderate. I saw Dirty Dancing last summer(not entirely my choice but my companions wanted to see it) in London, and the woman in front kept trying to stand up in the final scene (she was, er, getting into the moment). Which, if everybody was standing would be fine. As it was, I couldn’t see. I went from being polite and asking her nicely to hissing ‘sit down’, and she still didn’t. Then she got humiliated when they sent the littlest usher down to warn her she’d be chucked out….

  • Sue Holt

    I’ve just returned from a brilliant weekend in Stratford, where I enjoyed David Tennant’s spellbinding performance of Hamlet, to be bombarded with questions about the fan frenzy which is supposed to be going on there. Honestly it all seemed very calm to me. Admittedly I avoided the stage door after the performance, but as my hotel was next to the theatre, I did pass by a few times during the weekend and it was all very peaceful and completely deserted. A little queue for returned tickets started up each morning, but had disappeared by lunch time. At the performance I sat behind a group of young women who were clearly very excited about getting so close to Mr Tennant. Indeed at one point, he sat right next to us. Even then they managed to contain themselves and they got completely absorbed by the play. At the end of the play there was plenty of cheering – and rightly so – those actors had worke their socks off (literally in Tennant’s case) and they were really out of breath. Mr Tennant seemed delighted by this reaction and gave the girls a special grin before rushing off into the arms of his security people. It was fine. Don’t believe everything you read about it.

  • Mark Cummings

    I just returned to the US after seeing the first preview Thursday night. Wonderful modern-dress production and Tennant is everything one would hope for in a Hamlet. The lines at the stage-door were big but respectful as far as I could tell. My twelve-year old gave up waiting in order to go back to our hotel. See this if you can. Patrick Stewart was great, too.

  • MaryAnn

    his security people

    *sigh* It makes me really sad when people who are (supposedly) adored need “security.” Something’s not right about that.

  • I’m just glad he has security people. I was wondering about that.

    Showing my ignorance here–why, when the run started Thursday night, aren’t there any reviews on the net? And thanks, Sue & Mark, for yours above!

  • Because they’re preview performances. Press night won’t be for a couple of weeks – in the meantime the actors can fine-tune their performances in relation to the audience’s responses.

  • Poly in London

    Yesterday The Telegraph printed a photograph and it is from Thurday’s performance, you can see the audience in the background, some people recognised themselves. This is puzzling because it’s very bizarre if the RSC was taking production photographs in an actual performance, as far as I know this is unheard of.
    On the other hand, I can’t believe that a pap would be so bold and the Telegraph would print a photograph that’s not official.
    P.S. the stage has audience on three sides, so a photograph taken from the audience on one side would have the actors at the foreground and the audience of the opposite side at the background.

  • Sue Holt

    The photo was credited by the Telegraph and the RSC, but I don’t know how it was taken – I was in that audience and there was no obvious flash photography going on.
    But anyway – the play’s the thing and as there won’t be any press reviews for a while, perhaps this will help:

    After a tense opening scene where Stewart appeared as the Ghost, Tennant made his big entrance. He strode away from the party goers to the front of the stage. Dressed in a modern suit which hung loosely on his spare frame, he stood, glass in hand, looking desperately unhappy. Just as the players were watching his every move, nervous about his reaction to Gertrude’s wedding, so were we the audience waiting for his first words. He spoke in an upper class English accent which softened as the play progressed. Hamlet is being very priggish at this stage, so Tennant’s accent was more Reverend Gibson from He Knew He Was Right than The Doctor. By standing and behaving a little awkwardly, he managed to seem very young. That feeling is emphasised when, left alone he crouches to the floor and snivels unhappily.
    We were in more familiar territory in the ghost scene, where we saw many of the hallmarks of Tennant’s acting. His wide-eyed fear, his rapid speech, the speed at which he raced about the stage and the ease with which he switches between sanity, madness and humour. It was mesmerising. Poor Peter de Jersey’s Horatio doesn’t stand a chance. All eyes are fixed on Hamlet.

    The next time he appears, he is wearing jeans, turned up at the ankle, no shoes and a red t shirt which has a black image of a muscular chest. Again, by reducing his height in relation to the other actors and by having him dressed so informally, his boyishness is emphasised. He changed into a tux for the play within a play scene – but again goes barefoot. This added to the feeling of intimacy in the bedroom scene. He also uses his hair to good effect. From the formal combed back style of his opening scene, he constantly ruffles it to emphasise rage and despair and at one point manages to make it stand up on end completely to feign madness. Hamlet’s soliloquy’s are delivered centre stage, to the whole audience and with real emotion. Every word is clear and sure. Even in these preview shows, Tennant rarely stumbles on a line. The well known speeches do not seem trite. They are just dealt with in a very real way without over-emphasis. Sometimes we see flashes of The Doctor, as when he draws up to the King’s face and roars back at him, using Stewart’s accent and tone. There was a ripple of appreciation from the audience. Always there is his brilliant comic timing. There was an hilarious sequence where he is tied to a chair for questioning over the whereabouts of Polonius’s corpse. Barely able to move, his head darts about, still dominating the scene before willing the chair towards the exit and ‘For England’. His facial muscles are constantly exercised – at one point he crosses his eyes to great comic effect. All of Hamlet’s characteristics are beautifully portrayed. His loneliness and sense of loss, his feelings of betrayal, his defensiveness when he thinks Ophelia has rejected him, his insight into the machinations of the court. To the brilliantly contrived sword fight and death scene, it really was hard to take your eyes off this remarkable actor.
    So what of the others? Oliver Ford Davies’s Polonius was a real treasure. By delivering his lines as a loveable, forgetful, if rather wordy, old man, he was not only very funny, but created a character whom the audience could genuinely grieve for. Patrick Stewart was a little restrained. Perhaps this was in contrast to Tennant, but he really needs to warm up a bit. Mariah Gale was lovely as Ophelia – all frail and vulnerable and Pennie Downie played a cool Gertrude. I’m sorry to dismiss them all so easily – but it really was all about Tennant.

    My daughter commented that she felt privileged to have been there as she was sure we were witnessing one of the great Hamlets. I just hope the critcs don’t decide to maul it simply because it is popular. The audience rose to a man in standing ovation on the first night – and they weren’t just Dr Who fans. They were mostly regular RSC members taking advantage of cheap seats and priority booking. For me the test of a great Shakespearean performance is one that brings the play alive without any previous study or knowledge of the plot. This certainly does that. Fantastic!

  • Sue Holt

    Aargh! Sorry about that apostrophe. One should never press ‘post’ before checking!

  • Weimlady

    Sue, thank you! Although I still wish I could see it myself, you’ve given me the gift of seeing it through your eyes. Molto bene! :-)

  • I am so grateful for Sue Holt’s detailed, thoughtful and articulate review. I am envious beyond belief of those who get to see this production with a one-two-three punch: Shakespeare, David Tennant and Penny Downie (the last of whom I had the pleasure of seeing in Ottawa in the mesmerizing Penelopiad.)

  • Joanne

    Thank you, Sue! I’m even more sorry I can’t see it now. I wonder if the RSC fancies doing another tour of New Zealand …

  • Felicity

    This was a Good Hamlet but definitely NOT a Great Hamlet. I’m a big Shakespeare fan and a big DT/Dr Who fan so I was really looking forward to this but personally I didn’t think Tennant’s interpretation had enough oomph at times, particularly in the soliloquies. It was technically good, and his interaction with other characters was great at times, but I didn’t get the sense of a great tortured tragic hero which I suppose I was looking for. Of course many people in the audience hadn’t studied Hamlet at degree level so they may not have come to it with the expectations and preconceptions that may have dented my enjoyment. Tennant was certainly cheered rapturously by the audience at the end, However, after looking at some of the comments on this site I wonder if they were cheering just because he was David Tennant and because there were obvious echoes of the Doctor in his performance? (Audience behaviour during the performance was impeccable, by the way)

    Patrick Stewart’s Claudius, on the other hand, was simply masterly – in fact I would say it was he who seemed to be the potentially noble hero with the “fatal flaw” of lustful ambition. His use of Shakespeare’s language was mesmerising, and what an incredible voice! I’ve come away from Stratford as a Patrick Stewart fan and I’m keen to see him in more Shakespeare. However my next treat is The Tempest with Antony Sher – His Macbeth left me stunned for days afterwards- it was mind-blowing!

  • Ju

    Well… I came with no particular preconceptions about the play. I have certainly not studied it to any kind of level, and all I had in my mind was tights and ruffs and ‘To be or not to be…’ So I guess you could class me as a Hamlet virgin.

    I was surprised by the amount of humour in the play, but deep down still found it quite disturbing – I’m not sure what ‘Oooph’ was being looked for, but I can’t see how he could have given any more. I agree, the ‘To be… scene was quite low key, but I feel it fitted the interpretation – an absolute manic, frenzied, stage slapping Hamlet in front of others, who was a quiet, depressed and somewhat snivelling boy when alone. I’ve not seen any others so cannot say if he is one of the ‘greats’, but I found him (as well as the rest of the cast) spellbinding and it’s something I will not forget in a hurry.

    A large and very mixed audience seemed to agree and I’m sure everyone involved is rightly proud of the work they have put in.

  • Poly in London

    Generally, it will be good to remember that they are still in previews. So they are actively working the play through.

    And Felicity, nothing to do with your opinion, which is valid and could even be correct, but you come across a bit patronising.

  • Paul Moore

    I’m going on Friday night. Really looking forward to it as well. I’m sure the British press will try to nitpick about the production, but thats what they always do!

    I’ll report back soon with a brief review!

  • Poly in London

    Paul Moore said: “I’m sure the British press will try to nitpick about the production,”
    I have seen other pre-emptive comments like that and I would like to stand up for the critics (if not necessarily the British press). I am quite fond of the theatre critics in the british press. Generally they are knowledgeable and passionate about theatre, fair minded and not snobbish. Everything mention in the british press shows that critics wait this production with positive anticipation. I don’t think there is any sharpening of the knives.

    What inevitably happens with such a high profile actor in such a high profile production is that the critics’ quotes (the most sensational ones at least) will make the front pages: so while the reviews themselves will be at their usual place, we ‘ll get quotes in the front page hailing or damming DT. This is not the critics’ doing and it’s not what usually happens: most artists in theatre triumph or fail in relative obscurity. But it’s good to have theatre at the front page anyway.

  • Ju

    Poly, I agree in some respects regarding the critics, but having already seen a critic in The Sunday Telegraph a few weeks ago digging at Tennant and the production, (basically calling ‘stunt casting’ and calling him a TV actor with no stage experience -which is completely wrong as we know)I do fear a backlash of some sorts… If there is one thing the British press love it to build someone up and then tear them down again. I just hope it’s not his time for that…

  • Poly in London

    Ju said: “but having already seen a critic in The Sunday Telegraph a few weeks ago digging at Tennant and the production”
    What you don’t know (and you have no reason to) is that this particularly “critic” – Tim Walker – is an object of ridicule among theatre critics. He took the critic’s position in the Sunday Telegraph relatively recently (2-3 years ago), nothing wrong with that of course, but his lack of knowledge is legendary. He also still writes a celebrity column at the Telegraph, most critics wouldn’t be caught dead near a celebrity column.
    He is often made fun of, in print, publicly, openly, in fact many critics set him straight for that dig on Tennant, on the basis that only someone with a serious lack of theatrical knowledge (his trademark) would make that particular dig. He is the exception that proves the rule.
    I am not saying that the critics will like the production, I can’t possibly know that, I haven’t seen it myself yet, I am saying they don’t have an agenda against this production.

  • “… Tim Walker – is an object of ridicule among theatre critics. He took the critic’s position in the Sunday Telegraph relatively recently (2-3 years ago…”

    i do not understand how people of this type — especially if mocked among his fellows — manage to get a critic’s position in a relatively respectable newspaper. and two to three years is plenty of time to hone your craft — or your knives, i suppose.

    again, it shows how little esteem the arts receive… and how little cultural importance is given to them.

  • Ju

    Thanks, Poly! I’m not a regular reader of that paper, so was not fully aware of his reputation… I’m read a couple of articles defending the casting in response to Jonathan Miller’s ‘dig’, but not anything regarding that particular reveiw, so it’s good to know it was put straight. Even a half hearted google search would show what a load of tosh he was talking.

    I’m still thinking that there is a backlash to come though. But that’s me, even the pessimist! Of course everyone is entitled to whatever opinion they want, but would hate to see a blanket bashing just because of his present profile.

  • “i do not understand how people of this type — especially if mocked among his fellows — manage to get a critic’s position in a relatively respectable newspaper”

    In the London media scene, it’s almost invariably through nepotism. This is especially true on “posh” papers like the Telegraph, where the old boys’ network flourishes – a sad reflection on the class system here in Britain. The tabloids are more meritocratic (but in many other ways absolutely vile).

  • Mimi

    Thank you, Sue! Wonderful details, much appreciated.

  • NearlySane

    Interesting to read this – have tickets for the last night in London. Who knows what will have changed by then.

    Why am I going?

    Shakespeare – love him – he’s fab and if not his best play maybe the character of all drama

    Patrick Stewart – just for Sejanus worth ticket, hotel and younger child

    David Tennant – if only for Campbell in Takin’ over the Asylum.

    But in the end It’s Hamlet – riveting drama and you have to concentrate to screw up To Be or Not

  • Ivriniel

    I’m coming late to the party here, but I think C.S. Lewis for one, would disagree with Mr. Doran’s assertion that there is something inherently healthy about ceasing to watch Doctor Who at the age of 10.

    In On Three Ways of Writing for Children Lewis wrote:

    The modern view seems to me to involve a false conception of growth. They accuse us of arrested development because we have not lost a taste we had in childhood. But surely arrested development consists not in refusing to lose old things but in failing to add new things? I now like hock, which I am sure I should not have liked as a child. But I still like lemon-squash. I call this growth or development because I have been enriched: where I formerly had only one pleasure, I now have two. But if I had to lose the taste for lemon-squash before I acquired the taste for hock, that would not be growth but simple change. I now enjoy Tolstoy and Jane Austen and Trollope as well as fairy tales and I call that growth: if I had had to lose the fairy tales in order to acquire the novelists, I would not say that I had grown but only that I had changed. A tree grows because it adds rings: a train doesn’t grow by leaving one station behind and puffing on to the next. In reality, the case is stronger and more complicated than this. I think my growth is just as apparent when I now read the fairy tales as when I read the novelists, for I now enjoy the fairy tales better than I did in childhood; being now able to put more in, of course I get more out.

    That isn’t to say that there aren’t some weirdo Doctor Who fans. But you’ll find egocentric people with the emotional intelligence of a 5 year olds in the pursuit of any human endeavour.

  • Ivriniel


    Back when I was in High School, every year for English we attended one play a year at the Stratford (Ontario) Shakespeare Festival. They were always special student performances (matinees with reduced rates) and it would always begin with two cast members coming out and explaining how to behave in the theatre (don’t start screaming when the lights go down, etc.) It tended to work fairly well, though my school was always well behaved (we were a small school, and our teachers could easily supervise us all) the time we went to MacBeth we were seated next to a school whose students thought nothing of ripping up pieces of the carpet and throwing them off the balcony!

    Maybe they should do something similar at the RSC and play Shepherd Book’s “Special Hell” speech before each performance?

    And employ the Dorsai Irregulars as security? They could even dig out there old Klingon Diplomatic Corp costumes… ;)

  • MaryAnn

    All that is true. Plus, anyone who thinks the *new* *Doctor Who* is a “children’s show” has clearly never seen it.

  • Weimlady

    Ignorant question here, please to forgive: Since the production is being done in modern dress, has the language also been modernized or is it done as written?

  • The RSC would *never* modernise the language. That would be heresy.

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