I have to say, whilst I understand the frustration, I'm really hacked off at the Telegraph piece this morning presenting the "anger" expressed by 'fans' at David Tennant temporarily pulling out of his role as Hamlet on Monday and Tuesday so far this week. Some even went so far as to not bother with the production at all because he wasn't going to be in it. (I use the term 'fans' here with quote marks deliberately).
In the vast majority of theatre productions, there are few understudies and very limited opportunities for them to fully practice the role. The RSC is both lucky enough to be able to afford to prepare understudies AND is passionately committed to building talent to take up significant role. It is also crucially an ensemble company. Yes, I too would be gutted to not see David Tennant in the lead role he has nurtured these long months, but to turn away and not even bother going in... it just baffles me.
Besides which, the poor man is ILL: back pain, as anyone who has ever experienced it, is utterly merciless and difficult to predict. Tennant has previously only missed one stage performance in his career to date: he wasn't going to be missing TWO in a row, let alone a Press Night, if he could at all help it. So the 'late' announcement was fair. Remember as well, this is the man who after 9 months of filming Doctor Who - not the most laid-back of roles - immediately went off to do MORE work. When the break came up between the RSC Stratford and London runs, he didn't have a full holiday but instead slotted in work on the film 1939. He's addicted to acting: it's his life-blood. And given how physical Tennant is in his acting, coming back too soon could do long-term lasting damage. Nevertheless, I suspect he will be itching to come back to the role as soon as he is able to do so.
I desperately WANT him to be well in time for Marie/Jane Henry and myself/Christine to go this Friday and Saturday respectively, because they haven't had chance to see the production already (though JH has been able to see the charasmatic Tennant in Love's Labours Lost). But most of all I want Tennant to be well. The rest of the cast are astonishingly good in Hamlet and I will be delighted to see them all regardless.
And I will be sending my love and healthy best wishes to Tennant whether he is able to be there or not. Sure, my heart would break a little to miss his presence, but I would never dream of insulting the overall talents of the cast and crew by walking away from their efforts. I think the standing ovations the cast have received at Monday's and last night's performances* are testament to the quality of the RSCs productions - and this Hamlet is no exception.
Cross everything whatever happens.
* I could certainly appreciate what was said in the Times review of Bennett's performance. It cetainly takes some nerve to make an entrance and then stand still holding a glass for quite some long minutes. And I'd probably echo the thought that Bennett does do silly very well (he was brilliant in Love's Labour's Lost) - so it was nice to get the acknowledgement that by the second half he had nevertheless brought something to the role Tennant had made his own in this production. This seems echoed by other papers - and I was especially glad to read a more neutral tone in the Guardian comment and Guardian review which challenge the reasonableness of people not attending the performances if Tennant is no longer in them and find room to praise Bennett's turn.