The Royal Shakespeare Company has confirmed that David Tennant will not return to its production of Hamlet at the Novello until after Christmas. The star, who missed Monday evening’s preview performance and Tuesday’s opening night due to a recurring back injury, has a prolapsed disc and will undergo surgery today.
Edward Bennett will continue to perform the role of Hamlet, for which he received a standing ovation on press night and good reviews.
In a statement, Tennant said: “It is hugely disappointing for me to have to miss these performances. My back problem has progressed to the point where it is currently impossible for me to carry on without surgery. I want to get back onstage as quickly as possible and I am very grateful to Ed who has courageously got to grips with the role but in a much shorter time. It’s a fantastic achievement.”
Artistic Director Michael Boyd said: “We all wish David a speedy recovery and it is an indication of the RSC’s investment in understudies that Ed Bennett can take over Shakespeare’s largest role at such short notice. As an ensemble company, we feel it is important to go ahead with the run at the Novello theatre and I am proud of the way Ed, the understudies, Patrick Stewart, Penny Downie and the rest of the company have risen to this challenge, getting a great reaction from audiences and critics alike.”
Ticket holders disappointed not to see Tennant in the role will not be issued refunds and are unlikely to be able to exchange tickets for performances later in the run as the show sold out well in advance. However, the RSC has said tickets can be exchanged, subject to availability, for performances of the other two shows in its season at the Novello, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (15 January to 7 February) and The Taming Of The Shrew (12 February to 7 March).
Bennett, whose stage credits include Othello at the Donmar Warehouse and A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the RSC, leads a cast that includes Patrick Stewart as Claudius, Penny Downie as Gertrude and Oliver Ford Davies as Polonius. Tom Davey takes on the role of Laertes, previously played by Bennett, with Ricky Champ as Guildenstern and Robert Curtis as Lucianus.