To See Tennant, or Not To See Tennant? That, is the Question

And last night the answer was, unfortunately, ‘not’. As has been widely reported, David Tennant has had to pull out of his acclaimed and rapidly sold-out performance of Hamlet in London until at least Christmas. For those of us who had been excitedly waiting to see the man himself in action, having been fortunate enough to get tickets in the few hours they were available, this was a bit of a blow. Thankfully, the rest of the amazing cast put on a show that will not soon be forgotten, and his under-study – thrust unexpectedly into the limelight before a London audience for an extended run – does a bang up job. He’s not Tennant, although at times you feel from his mannerisms he’s trying to be, but Edward Bennet carries of a complex role with aplomb.

Aye, the play’s the thing, and all the world’s a stage. So what of it? The stage opens dark and mysterious, lit just by the lights of the soldiers on the battlements, and it is then you notice that the entire stage is semi-mirrored as the soldiers’ lights bounce off the ground onto their faces. This amazing setup is used to great effect throughout the play, with minimal stage furniture and subtle lighting you are transported to a gothic castle at various times of the day. The huge mirrored panels at the rear rotate, allowing people to enter and exeunt at various times in different ways – and semi-mirrored glass gives us the necessary arras to hide behind. Later, the rear glass itself becomes even more of an actor – refelecting the sudden death of a key character. I feel that we were lucky in the Grand Circle – seats C11/12 – in that we literally had a perfect view down onto this mirrored stage, seeing the actors from both sides is grabbing and makes you appreciate what can be done on stage.

Against this stunning scenery, the players are caringly lit as they deliver characters with such precision and emotional force that you’re swept along. Patrick Stewart’s Claudius is at times the caring father, at others the malevolent plotter, and at all points believable. Polonius, played by Oliver Ford Davis is a revelation – a stumbling buffon who mutters and loses words that can still be heard across the auditorium (thankfully unlike the time he has to stage whisper words to Laertes stand-in). Hamlet’s mother Gertrude was engagingly played by Penny Downie, capturing to full effect her concerns about Hamlet’s mind and soul. Strong players all, and the only flat spots seem to be where the understudies are having to find their feet suddenly as all the roles shift. So what of the biggest shift? Our new Hamlet was spot on – word perfect and emotionally ranging. Perhaps he’s not quite as mercurial as we would have expected Tennant to be, but he’s starting to make the role his own – and hopefully by the end of his run he will have done so. Even at such short notice he delivers the goods. Encore!

So, to David – get well soon, we hope to see you on stage somewhere somewhen. To the rest of the performers – thank you for popping my Hamlet cherry with a stunning show.

The Next Doctor?

Well it’s now official that David Tennant is leaving Doctor Who. Sad news indeed as he created such a great take on the character, one that has introduced the Doctor to a new generation and even convinced a few die hards that Tom Baker’s run could at least be equalled. Unfortunately although Tennant’s Doctor is as compelling as Baker’s, his run on the show is nowhere near as epic – Baker did seven series, man and scarf.

So now it’s a big thanks to David for all the good times, and onto the usual flurry of speculation as to who will be next. I don’t envy them, they have some hard shoes to fill. David gave as a dark, somewhat tortured Doctor, so you have to think another direction would be good – lighter, but not too comedic. I’d still love to see Eddie Izzard give it a go, but suspect that won’t happen. Perhaps they could get Mitchell and/or Webb to try, that’d be an interesting twist to follow on from the Two Doctors storyline at the end of the last series. All these folk would be fun to watch, but I suspect we need someone with a few more actorly chops, and a bit of Shakespearean experience as the ‘Sci Fi Shakespeare’ angle is always a winner.

Doctor Who Hamlet Hits London – Sells Out. Duh.

Well, for those of you who aren’t Doctor Who fans turn off now.. for those of you who are, you’ll be sad to hear that the London run of the RSC’s Hamlet, starring David Tennant and Patrick Stewart sold out in a few hours earlier today.

Having been one of the many thousands who beseiged the Novello’s ticket site earlier today, I can only say it was one of the more stressful moments in my life. The site was constantly up and down, in the same way that the phone line was constantly engaged. In fact, even when we somehow managed to, apparently, book tickets the site refused to confirm the purchase! How stressful is that? Well it turns out a lot less stressful now after the box office confirmed that my payment had gone through – yay!

Of course now I have to find out how many times I paid for those tickets, as without a confirmation page and unable to get back through again I tried repeatedly to ‘Confirm and Purchase’ to no avail. Fingers crossed the ticket server was sensible enough to work out that the tickets had already been sold and not charge again, but given how badly it dealt with the whole thing then nothing much would surprise me. In all fairness this was extreme demand, but surely it was expected? Still, it could be worse – Ticketbastard could have taken even more of my money along with other people’s as they sell tickets for a thousand quid markup on their ‘fan to fan’ touting site with their ‘service fee’. Why hasn’t this travesty been shut down yet?

Personally for popular, limited events such as this I believe London’s theatres should start to follow a Glastonbury style of ticketing to prevent the amazing levels of touting. Named tickets, that can only be used by the people whose names are on the ticket and present valid ID. Can’t make the show after all? Then return your ticket for a full refund, allowing real fans to get last minute tickets at the face value rather than 10x, and you get a priority place in line for returns on another day – for example if you happen to be ill. Admittedly this is a lot more work for the ticketing facilities, but if people are dedicated to getting rid of touts and helping the fans then what other options are there? Or the other option is to follow a Madonna-esque model of pricing, with an auction being held for the better tickets ensuring that all the money goes to the RSC rather than anyone else. Then with the extra cash they can run more cheaper tickets to help expand the audience of Shakespeare to those less able to afford it – which was part of their goal of casting David Tennant in the first place.

As for me, I can’t wait for my yearly dose of ‘Sci Fi Shakespeare’. Last year it was Patrick Stewart as MacBeth and the show was wonderful. This year – it’s Whovians and Trekkies in the audience as two great British actors tread the boards in one of the world’s most famous plays. Allons y and make it so! Sorry, my geek side kicked in.. resistance was futile. Coff.

Who? Doctor Who?

Well that was one of the best Doctor Who episodes in a while. Explosions. Multiple cameos. Emotional wrenching turmoil. The usual. Plus Davros is back again, splendid stuff.

Oh, and a resolution to last week’s cliffhanger where the Doctor was shot by a dalek that I promise you won’t expect. Big ups to Russell T Davis and the rest of the team.