Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Be fair

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.


Marie said...

Christ, it's a bit pathetic not to bother turning up or to say that you were there 'solely' to see David Tennant. You do have to ask yourself how much they were going to enjoy three hours of hardcore Shakespeare even with DT in the lead.

I have a dodgy back and can confirm that being laid up with back pain is *even worse* than not seeing David Tennant in Hamlet after months of anticipation. Get well soon David.

Jane Henry said...

Yup I have a dodgy back too (I did mine last Monday, was betterish after three lots of physio by Friday, maybe DT with all the help he's undoubtedly getting will be able to sort it by this Friday??))

I had to break it to the kids this morning that he might not be in it, but when I mentioned that Charles Xavier from X Men was also playing a lead role they seemed to be reasonably happy with that!

I loved the fact that when we saw LLL DT wasn't LEADING the cast, but was part of it, and even at times took himself off to the back of the stage almost you felt to be less obtrusive. We're lucky to have the RSC, I love live theatre, I want to introduce the kids to Shakespeare, I'm sure I'll love it. Though obviously if Mr T is back by Friday I will love it more...

Naomi said...

I feel so badly for David Tennant-he certainly doesn't seem the type who would back out of something like this if it weren't truly necessary. He must be in a lot of pain. I did read another article online (link below) that says he is going in for back surgery-so it must be fairly serious!

I guess I have to understand how it would be disappointing to people who were hoping to see him on stage . . . but they have to understand that he can't help it! And I would hope that if they made the leap of faith and tried to relax and just watch the play for what it is, they would enjoy Hamlet for its own sake.

JoeinVegas said...

The problem might be that people are going to see David as Hamlet, not Hamlet staring David. So if David is not there then why go?

We attended a play here last year that was mainly here because of the star. The one performance he missed in a year? Yup, the one we went to. But we still enjoyed it.

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