When I went: December 2008
Location: Novello Theatre, London
Performers: David Tennant (Hamlet), Patrick Stewart (Claudius / Ghost), Penny Downie (Gertrude), Edward Benet (Laertes), Mariah Gale (Ophelia)
Creative team: Gregory Doran (director), William Shakespeare (playwright), Robert Jones (set designer)
Approximate price: £40
Special points: Celebrity Shakespeare
Best bit: Tennant’s monologues
If I could change one thing: More available tickets
Hamlet is a Shakespeare play that thespians tend to approach when they want to get their teeth into a challenge and prove their acting chops. It can be a bit opaque if you’re not already a fan of Shakespeare, but there is a good reason why it has endured for so long and it provided the basis for other interpretations of the story such as The Lion King.
David Tennant was already well-known when he took the lead role, due to his tenure as Doctor Who (and to a lesser extent, as Casanova). It would have been easy for the critics to slam his performance as just another attempt at celebrity Shakespeare, but he more than proved his ability to handle it and got some rave reviews. Unfortunately, shortly after I saw him in this performance he had to give up the role due to back problems; I recall that Edward Benet (Laertes) took over the role afterwards.
Patrick Stewart was unsurprisingly fearsome as Claudius / the Ghost, while Mariah Gale provoked sympathy as Ophelia. The performance felt like it had the right blend of humour and tragedy and left the audience impressed if not uplifted.