King of the West End

David Tennant's rise from fringe theatre – via Doctor Who – is irresistible as thousands join a stampede to see him play Hamlet

The queue snaking around the Novello Theatre in the West End of London yesterday was dramatic proof that David Tennant has achieved a regeneration to make his Doctor Who alter ego proud. Within three hours of going on sale, all 6,000 tickets to see the actor play Hamlet had sold out in a stampede that crashed websites and jammed hotlines. The clamour to see Tennant as the Dane in a rapturously-received Royal Shakespeare Company production alongside Patrick Stewart cemented the 37-year-old Scot's status as one of Britain's most popular – and bankable – actors. By the end of the day, December's opening night tickets for the London run were being resold for £1,200 a pair on the internet.

Hundreds of fans had queued outside the theatre, with die-hards camping out overnight.

The spectacle was evidence that Tennant has succeeded where some predecessors as the Time Lord had failed, escaping the fate of only finding success as Doctor Who. An RSC spokesman said yesterday: "David has encouraged a new generation of theatregoers."

Tennant has enjoyed rave reviews for his parka-clad Hamlet, with The Independent's critic describing the performance as "extremely captivating".

But the frenzy also served to underline the fact that Tennant, who supposedly decided at the age of three that he wanted to play the role of Doctor Who, is at a crossroads. Amid speculation that Hollywood is beckoning after he expressed his eagerness to appear in more big-screen productions, negotiations for a new series of Doctor Who scheduled to be broadcast in 2010 are also under way.

Tennant is only confirmed to appear in four Doctor Who specials next year . The BBC is reportedly prepared to offer him a deal worth £1.3m for his fifth series – £100,000 per episode.

Helen O'Hara, of Empire magazine, said: "David is facing a dilemma. He could do anything he wants after the success of his Doctor Who. But any actor who takes that role faces the danger of being typecast. That is why taking time out for Hamlet will do him a lot of good."

The cross-over appeal of Tennant and the Doctor Who franchise was underlined with the announcement that the inclusion of a performance of music from the show in this year's BBC Proms had helped draw unprecedented audiences. An average of 90 per cent of the seats were sold.

Ironically, one potential solution for Tennant's ambition to do more films has been floated in the shape of a Doctor Who movie. Steven Moffat, due to replace Russell T Davies as the sci-fi's head writer, said last month that he would support a feature-length version starring Tennant, "so long as it's great and fantastic".

BBC Film flatly denied it was seeking funding for a movie or that it had struck a deal with Tennant to star in the next series as long as the corporation committed to a big-screen version.

All of which will be greeted with insouciance by Tennant, who has said it is "too easy to become defined by your press cuttings" and shrugs off fascination with his private life. He has been linked with Kylie Minogue and Georgia Moffett, the daughter of a former Doctor Who, Peter Davison.

Born David McDonald (he took his professional name from Neil Tennant, the Pet Shop Boys' singer, after finding another actor of the same name was already listed with Equity), the current Doctor Who was raised in Renfrewshire with his brother and sister in what he insists was a less than puritanical existence despite his father's status as a moderator of the Church of Scotland.

Tennant, a Labour supporter, has an extensive thespian pedigree. His first role was in Brecht's The Resistable Rise Of Arturo Ui with a socialist theatre company. After frequent comic roles with the RSC, he appeared in a string of BBC dramas, culminating in the title role in Casanova.

The risk remains that Tennant's Doctor will define his career. But it is a fate with which he may be comfortable. He once wrote: "I was a Doctor Who junkie. Every Saturday evening at 5.35 I could not be disturbed. I was worshipping at the shrine."

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there