HAMLET AND DOCTOR WHO. Mary Jane and I were unfamiliar with David Tennant. When I e mailed Lee Bryant to alert him to the RSC HAMLET, he wrote back: “I loved David Tennant as The Doctor on Doctor Who, so I’m going to record this.” I replied: “So Tennant does have good classical credentials.” Mary Jane asked me if I was joking, but I was quite serious. I’ve always said that a lot of non-Shakespearian actors should do Shakespeare. I used to give Jackie Gleason and Carol Burnett as examples. Now, John Goodman, best known for playing Roseanne’s husband, is considered to be a great Falstaff, and I would love to see him do it. Good acting is good acting. Patrick Stewart says here that Shakespearean training helped in Tennant’s doing Dr. Who and Stewart’s doing Star Trek. Stewart says: “I think that the experience that we get in making a 400-year-old text work is exactly what you need for giving credibility and believability to fantasy, science fiction, and the like.” Let me suggest this as a thought experiment: Suppose you had only seen Michael Gambon or Kenneth Branagh or Maggie Smith in the Harry Potter movies or Ian McKellan only as Gandalf. You would feel comfortable casting them in a Shakespeare play and you’d be right.

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  1. Mary Jane Schaefer says:

    Doing Shakespeare comes with a couple of little problems. One is the archaic language. You have to study it and internalize it so the lines sound natural and inevitable, as, indeed, they were written. But there’s also the problem of “Oh, my God, this is Shakespeare. I have to be GRAND.” No, don’t be grand. Be humble before greatness. Put yourself at its service.

  2. Mary Jane Schaefer says:

    And didn’t that sound like Thomas Carlyle? I’m sure Phil is gritting his teeth right now.

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