Heads Up: Hamlet

Tony B or not Tony B – Sheen shifts from Blair to Bard

Holly Williams
Wednesday 26 October 2011 11:28

What are we talking about?

Michael Sheen is the latest bankable face to have a go at playing the Dane.

Elevator Pitch

Sheen and Ian Rickson hope the play's the thing.

Prime Movers

As his smash hit Jerusalem returns to our shores, director Rickson takes the reins here. He'll be hoping to round off a successful year of West End runs of The Children's Hour and Betrayal. Helping out on movement is Maxine Doyle, chorographer and associate director for Punchdrunk, who worked with Rickson on Children's Hour. Another former collaborator, multimedia artist Jeremy Herbert, is on designing duties.

The Stars

Michael Sheen is the big one, of course. Although he cut his teeth playing Shakespeare heroes, it's been a while; he's better known for real-life figures these days. James Clyde is Claudius; Michael Gould plays Polonius, and Sally Dexter is Gertrude. Benedict Wong, who's cropped up in smart sci-fi movies Moon and Sunshine, is Laertes while Vinette Robinson, who impressed in Tender Napalm, tackles Ophelia.

The Early Buzz

London listings magazine Time Out wrote: "In a year that's seen heavyweight productions of Shakespeare's weightiest play from the National Theatre and Shakespeare's Globe, the Young Vic chips in with its own big bruiser of a production... a fresh approach to this most interrogated yet inexhaustible of Shakespeare's plays is very much on the cards, which will be necessary... to separate their production from the celebrity circus that surrounded David Tennant and Jude Law's recent takes on the Danish prince."

Insider Knowledge

It's not Sheen's first stab at the role, though admittedly is a little more exciting than his last: a 1999 BBC3 radio play version.

It's great that...

Rickson, who has never directed a Shakespeare play before, is keen to offer a less sanitised Hamlet. He has spoken of making "it difficult and jagged again, unsettling and uncomfortable and disorienting".

It's a shame that...

For all it is an inexhaustible script, anyone taking on Hamlet at the moment can expect recent starry turns to be fresh in the minds of critics and audiences alike: Sheen will surely face comparisons with Jude Law, David Tenant, Rory Kinnear and Joshua McGuire.

Hit Potential

Tickets have sold by the bucketload already. Get in quick.

The Details

Hamlet is at the Young Vic, London SE1 (youngvic.org), 28 Oct to 21 Jan.

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