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Hamlet - Reviews mentioning DT


BBC arts editor Will Gompertz described it as "not bad", adding:

They say that a good actor playing Hamlet goes to the audience … a great actor brings the audience to the character. Certainly David Tennant did that ... and there were times when Benedict Cumberbatch did that too. But there were other times, particularly, I thought, with the soliloquies, where he was delivering a speech as opposed to showing a man thinking out loud, which happened to be overheard by a thousand people.

Dominic Cavendish, the Telegraph

 

Dear (possibly exhausted) reader I will toy with you no further. Cumberbatch admirers can take heart, his female devotees are entitled to swoon: in this trial of his acting strength, he emerges, unquestionably, victorious. He may lack the moodiness of Daniel Day-Lewis, the quirkiness of David Tennant or the raw edge of Jude Law, but in his own way he stands equal to the best modern Hamlets, makes the part his – and yes, justifies the hysteria.

David Ellis, Evening Standard

Simon Russell Beale - National Theatre, 2000

Beale had waited 20 years before he was finally had his chance – and he made the most of it. In John Caird's production, Russell Beale went right for the depths of Hamlet's warring mind: he did not treat him as a glamorous figure, preferring to present a simple, stirring study of tragic grief.

"A sensitive and deeply human Hamlet - lonely, vulnerable, soulful," summarised Evening Standard theatre critic Henry Hitchings. In an interview with the Telegraph, Russell Beale described the role as "...very hospitable. It will take anything you throw at it. You get bitter Hamlets, you get revengeful Hamlets, arrogant Hamlets, witty Hamlets." He said his Hamlet "was just so devastated by the unexpectedness of grief. He didn't know what to do with himself."

Ben Whishaw - Old Vic, 2004

"There's an electrifying rawness and fragility in this 23-year-old's intense, mournful performance" said Henry Hitchings. Though Cumberbatch will be 39 when he takes to the stage, Whishaw was just 23.  Ahead of his performance, he told the Standard: "I'm not anybody. I'm not a name. No one's coming to see Ben Whishaw 'do' Hamlet." But once the reviews splashed across the front pages, he became both a name and a draw.

The Evening Standard's then-critic, Nicholas de Jongh, wrote of Whishaw's "magical impact" and "raw passion". This was high praise indeed from de Jongh, a man whose typical one-liners usually went more along the brutal lines of "She had a shot at the part and killed it stone dead". The Telegraph's Charles Spencer went even further, gushing that the opening night was the "kind of evening of which legends are made, on of those rare first nights that those who were present are never likely to forget." Cumberbatch has his work cut for him.

David Tennant - Novello Theatre, RSC, 2008

While critics were somewhat split over how effective the RSC's production was itself, and cynics sniped that theatre bosses were doing little more than cashing in on Doctor Who's popularity, Tennant came out of proceedings with his back well slapped for his sardonic, energetic take on things. Henry Hitchings said Tennant "excitingly conveyed both slippery intelligence and a wild physicality", while the Guardian's Michael Billington wrote: "This is a Hamlet of quicksilver intelligence, mimetic vigour and wild humour: one of the funniest I've ever seen".

Rory Kinnear - National Theatre, 2010

Henry Hitchings says that of all the Hamlets he's seen since he began working for the Standard, Kinnear was "hands down the best", and at the time wrote he was "a captivating presence" and declared: "In Rory Kinnear the National Theatre has a stunning new Hamlet".

Kinnear, unlike Tennant, brought out the pensive, philosophical side of Hamlet, and was praised for his portrayal of the Prince's intellectual struggles – and for playing him very much as an adult wrestling with his feelings, and not a naïve young man who isn't in control of them.

Michael Sheen - Young Vic, 2011

Though starring in what Hitchings calls a "rather peculiar production", which set the play in a mental institution and sharply divided critics in the process, the Welsh actor, then 42, received a standing ovation on opening night for his turn as a prickly Prince, who Hitchings said "magnetises attention", noting "his way with the text is lucid, intelligent and often ecstatically original".

Russell Jackson, the Conversation

The clue to the play's perennial attraction for actors and audiences lies in these puzzles and opportunities for the title character, who can also be trenchant, witty and aggressive as well as "sweet". In my own experience David Warner excelled at this on stage, and on film Richard Burton in the 1960s, Michael Pennington in the early 1980s and David Tennant in the present decade have achieved the same. 

Michael Billington, the Guardian

 

Oscar Wilde once wrote: "In point of fact there is no such thing as Shakespeare's Hamlet. If Hamlet has something of the definiteness of a work of art, he also has all the obscurity that belongs to life. There are as many Hamlets as there are melancholies."

Wilde's point was that the actor's individuality is a vital part of the interpretation. That is true of all Shakespeare. But the actor who plays Lear, Falstaff or Cleopatra is necessarily involved, to some extent, in a feat of impersonation. What makes Hamlet, as a role, unique is its capacity to accommodate an actor's particular strengths. John Gielgud highlighted Hamlet's lyrical introspection, Laurence Olivier his athletic virility, Nicol Williamson his rancorous disgust, Mark Rylance his tormented isolation, David Tennant his mercurial humour.

It's a role that defies age: I saw David Warner play it when he was 24, Michael Redgrave when he was 50 (Cumberbatch at 39 more or less splits the difference). It's also a part that famously transcends gender. Of the three female Hamlets I've seen, Frances de la Tour's was marked by a swashbuckling vigour, the German Angela Winkler's by a delicate tenderness and Maxine Peake's by a built-in bullshit detector.

To put it in a nutshell, no actor can ever quite fail as Hamlet. I wouldn't deny the role tests the actor's vocal technique and physical stamina to the utmost. But the character – compounded of piercing sanity and existential despair, infinite hesitation and impulsive action, self-laceration and observant irony – is so multi-faceted, it is bound to coincide at some point with an actor's particular gifts. The real test is not whether an actor can play Hamlet: it is how much of the character's multi-dimensionality he can encompass.

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