About the Film

Shakespeare’s immortal “To be, or not to be” takes on a whole new meaning (and medium) as classical stage and screen actors David Tennant and (recently-knighted) Sir Patrick Stewart reprise their roles for a modern-dress, film-for-television adaptation of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) 2008 stage production of Hamlet. The production will be presented on PBS by the Great Performances series on Wednesday, April 28, 2010, at 8 p.m. EST (check local listings). Immediately following the broadcast, the film will be available online in its entirety here on the Great Performances Web site.

Preview the film:

Hamlet aired in the UK on Boxing Day at Christmastime 2009, and more than 900,000 viewers tuned in for the BBC broadcast. In an article in The Observer, Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown wrote: “Like many people, I had my love of Shakespeare reawakened by David Tennant’s TV portrayal of Hamlet over Christmas.”

Best known for his performance in the title role of the popular British TV series Doctor Who since 2005, Tennant made his debut in October as the host of MASTERPIECE CONTEMPORARY on PBS. His many other credits include his recent portrayal of Barty Crouch Junior in the big-screen blockbuster Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Tennant has also received numerous awards from the theatre community for his lead roles in several Shakespearean productions and other classic plays.

Veteran stage and screen actor Sir Patrick Stewart reprises his 2009 Laurence Olivier Award-winning role of Claudius in the screen version, which is directed by Gregory Doran, who also returns to reprise his stage direction of the production. Co-produced by Illuminations Television and the RSC for the BBC, in association with Thirteen for WNET.ORG and NHK, the adaptation recreates the tone and atmosphere of the stage production in a film-style interpretation shot in HD on location at St. Joseph’s College in Mill Hill, London. The production is produced for television by John Wyver and Sebastian Grant.

Great Performances is funded by the Irene Diamond Fund, the National Endowment for the Arts, Vivian Milstein, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, public television viewers, and PBS. Major support for the telecast is also provided by the LuEsther T. Mertz Charitable Trust. For Great Performances, Bill O’Donnell is series producer; David Horn is executive producer.

  • PJ

    Fabulous! This is an outstanding performance that should not be missed. I can’t wait to view it on PBS and to own the DVD.

  • allison

    this is a film/performance not to miss! with an amazing cast and crew, they deliver nothing short of amazing! glad to finally see this over here in the states :D thank you pbs!

  • egregiousgirl

    this is quite possibly my favourite filmed performance of Hamlet. just lovely. the whole cast is stellar, and David Tennant KILLS it! can’t wait for this to air in the states so my friends there can see what i’ve been fussing about!

  • GG

    I’m so glad I’m finally going to get to see this!

  • Dj

    Thanks for airing this on PBS. This is a riveting performance by the entire cast especially David Tennant.

  • Beth

    I am so excited that this performance is finally airing in the US! I am disappointed, however, that my local PBS station has delayed the air date until May 2. David Tennant is not to be missed.

  • lyradoyle

    I am so excited about this. I don’t know that I have ever waited this impatiently for a performance to air on television. Having grown up with Sir(!) Patrick Stewart and after developing a complete adoration of David Tennant’s amazing skills, I have no doubt that this will be amazing.

  • Albert

    I am looking forward to this as well. It’ about time PBS presented something like this again instead of interminable reruns of “Antique Roadshow”. However, with our luck, our local PBS station will shaft it to an unwatchable time.

  • Stephanie

    Thank you for posting the film on your website after the performance.

    My local PBS station, Channel 9 in St Louis no longer carries Great Performances. This way my family won’t have to wait for the DVD to be released to see the performance.

  • Holly

    I was so excited about Tennant’s “Hamlet” that I flew all the way to London for the stage production last year Unfortunately he’d pulled out due to major back problems and instead I saw his able understudy Edward Bennet. But a few days passed and I heard a rumor: Tennant might be returning only 3 weeks after surgery. No way, but ‘just in case’ I dropped by the theatre. I was heavily rewarded: Tennant was now on stage rehearsing and if he felt ok, he’d go on that evening. A couple of return tickets later… Wow!! His understudy was very good (you’ll see him on the film as Laertes) but Tennant was astonishing. The performance level of the entire cast was raised. This film captures his stage performance beautifully with but with many additions of on-location scenery and a dash of the modern with CCTV camera footage. Enjoy!!

  • Mona

    David Tennant as Hamlet is bound to be brilliant. I’ve been looking forward to this every since I read the first announcements.

  • Helene

    To read an interesting and fun account of the daily filming of this production, go to the producer’s (John Wyver) blog at http://www.illuminationsmedia.co.uk and click on “Blogging the Bard.”

    The Illuminations web site also has links to other “Hamlet”-related sites. These are definitely worth checking into.

  • Pete

    I’m sure this will be wonderful, but some of the comments read as if they were written by those close to the production and not as the spontaneous outpourings of enthusiasm they might be taken for. Could this be clarified?

  • david ernst

    Hey Pete,

    Although we at Great Performances are certainly proud and excited for our upcoming presentation of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) Hamlet, all of the comments on this site are created from viewers and fans of the program.

    If it doesn’t have a PBS watermark, then it’s not from us! We hope you stay tuned for the program scheduled to broadcast on Wednesday, April 28th at 8:00pm (check local listings).

  • Kate

    I’m less rich and luckier for having seen David Tennant in flesh doing Hamlet! It was beyond words! He and the cast changed how I saw the play. The only bad memory I have of that night is that I found out after the performance via email that DT was leaving Doctor Who!

  • Nell

    Pete–mostly anything having to do with David Tennant will bring forth genuine outpourings of enthusiasm. :) And i say this only in the most positive way, as a huge fan of Tennant’s. Plus, the Illuminations blog mentioned above, while yes directly involved in production is also genuinely fascinating for anyone interested in theatre and film. And frankly, a great marketing tool. Take note PBS. ;)
    Thank you for airing this PBS; everything I’ve seen and heard from even the pickiest of theatre critics is that this is definitely worth the hype it got in the UK. Now when are you bringing the cast here to NYC for a related Q&A session and screening? ;)

  • Samarkand

    @pete – This film was aired in the UK several months ago, and a DVD has been out since February, so a lot of enthusiasts have seen it already, hence the commenting here. Additionally, David Tennant and Patrick Stewart are both household-name-level superstars in their home country, so you’ll get a lot of very positive feelings being expressed about anything they are in.

    I’m very pleased this will be aired on PBS, and that the network was able to contribute to its filming. I saw the production on stage in London, back when the word was that there was not going to be a filmed version. I was absolutely over the moon when it was announced, and so very, very happy that it will be shown to US audiences as well.

  • Heather

    I am soooo geeked about seeing this… I’ve always found Hamlet to be my favorite Shakespeare play, and to have David Tennant and Patrick Stewart as two of the leads is mindblowing! I can’t wait!!

  • Barry

    wish you would all get over yourselves and get real. David is a good actor and excellent as the doctor. but he over streched himself in trying to play the great role in theatre. the production and direction was amateur. Patrick steward showed how it should be done. how many of you would see Hamlet if David was not in it. if you want to see hamlet … See Moreas it should be seen look at Brannaghs version or the classic oliver version. even Mel Gibson was by far superior.
    Sorry david. I like you a lot. otherwise i would not be a fan. But Hamlet was a step too far.
    you played the doctor playing hamlet
    could not tell them apart

  • Sandy

    Yes!1 I cannot wait to see the performace of David Tennant and Sir Partrick Steward on the 28th of May that immediately after the film, I WILL order the DVD of the play by PBS or BBC. My only regret was I wish that the play will come to the states. Thanks.

  • Pat

    I can’t wait. I wanted to see it in London but couldn’t make the trip happen. I agree with Sandy. I will get the DVD, watch the show and wish, wish that it had come to the States!

  • Debra

    I must disagree with Barry. I saw the RSC production in Stratford-Upon-Avon though true that I only put out the expense in 2008 to travel from Denver, CO. because of David Tennant and Sir Patrick Stewart’s involvement, it has been a dream of mine for, I hate to admit, almost three decades to see an RSC production. I have been enthralled by Shakespeare since I was 10 and my grandfather brought home “Romeo and Juliet” and “Love’s Labours Lost”. He didnt have any interest, it was simply in a box of books he brought home. He changed my life with those introductions. “Hamlet” is one of my favorites. It was a simple production but hardly amateaurish. I was quite moved. Even my friend, who is not a fan of theater let alone Shakespeare, was interested and enjoyed it. David Tennant is a talented actor and I did not see The Doctor on stage. Perhaps you could not see past the character of The Doctor to see the role of Hamlet.

    It simply doesnt matter whether those who went to the RSC stage production or waited anxiously to see it on the television were primarily interested in the actors and not the play. They experienced the play and my 12 year old son now understands why I love Shakespeare, now that he has seen bits of this production on youtube. Many fans have experienced Shakespeare and well done Shakespeare because of it. Many of those fans are now Shakespearean fans as well. My son has been interested in becoming an actor since he was quite small, he loves to pretend and make up characters. Now, at 12, he wants to study classical theater and Shakespeare in particular not simply physical comedy and it is entirely because of this production of Hamlet. I have seen the other Hamlet movies. Branagh’s was very, very good. Mel Gibson’s was not. This production is very, very good minus the period costumes and lavish set.

  • John Wyver

    As one of the producers in Britain of this screen version, and as the author of the blogs that Helene kindly recommends above, I want to say it’s great to see such interest and enthusiasm. (Can I also thank Great Performances for being so terrific as co-producers? This wouldn’t have happened without you.)

    But, Pete, I promise it’s not the production team posting anonymously — of we do comment, like here, we’ll do it with our own names, I promise. Enjoy the show – perhaps unsurprisingly, we think it’s pretty special.

  • Denise in Vancouver

    I was fortunate to have seen this twice at The Courtyard in Stratford-upon-Avon during my vacation to England in 2008. Shakespeare’s tragedies aren’t my favourite, I prefer the comedies, but the cast…the whole cast…won me over. I’ve followed both Patrick Stewart and David Tennant for many years and was thrilled to be able to see them in a live production. They certainly lived up to, and exceeded, my expectations.

    And for anyone who wants to see what David Tennant is about without all the Doctor Who hype, then watch the BBC production of Casanova (2005 I think) that aired on PBS. He also had a guest spot on an episode of Foyle’s War. He has a whole range of work in the UK, from tv, to radio, voice-overs and audio books; hardly any of which has aired in North America, much to my disgust. Maybe PBS will take a look at some of his stuff and air it (would love to see “Secret Smile” and “Recovery”!).

  • Colleen in Cleveland

    My first experience with live theater was at the Cleveland Playhouse production of “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and have been in love with Shakespearean tales ever since: I was 13 at the time. I remember the fellow that played Lysander was an actor with much the same mannerisms as David Tennant. I wish I knew the man’s name, because I would love to know if he made it in acting like David. David was not an amateur, if he were, he would not have had prior awards and roles in the RSC. Before Dr. Who. He has been around for quite some time. Check the history, Pete and Barry. Besides, as much as I like Harrison Ford, he does have a few mannerisms that follow him throughout his roles, just like David does. I won’t comment on his performance in this, other than to say that the reviewers thought it brilliant, but I am still waiting to see for myself.

  • draziel

    very good

  • girlie

    cant wait! i also have seen performances fro san fran to ny. love what im seeing with tennant. he could very well be a top 2 favorite! richard burton remains number one until i see tennant, we’ll see.

  • Cristeen

    Saw the production in Stratford and was blown away. I own the DVD, this is the definitive production of our time.

  • emma

    As a Brit living in the US I am excited that PBS will finally be sharing this production with the US. I have to agree with Denise in Vancouver, check out Casanova with DT and also Einstein and Eddington which was shown recently on HBO…he is truly a brilliant actor that brings so much life to every character he plays, and if he excites new audiences to watch new genres then all the better. I cant wait to see what he does next. Oh and it is possible to like Doctor Who AND Shakespeare !

  • Johanna

    Can’t wait to see this AGAIN :) saw it in London with David in it, having just returned from back surgery, and saw it when it came out on BBC and now to see it again :) thank you SO MUCH PBS for running it here. More people need to know about DT and see more of his work, plus the RSC is the best and Sir Patrick is just, well…there are no words for what he does in this :) they’re all just stellar!

  • Johanna

    @Barry Kenneth Brannagh’s Hamlet was better than this? what? seriously? okay yeah he’s great that is true..but to compare MEL GIBSON’s Hamlet to David Tennant??? that’s just so many versions of wrong lol… No he’s not playing Hamlet like the doctor…you need to go back and look at other work he has done this isn’t his first Shakespearean production, he’s been in quite a few. To be in a performance with someone like Patrick Stewart is definately an honour to him and something they didn’t take lightly in picking the actor who would play Hamlet (david and edward both were magnificent)

  • Helene

    Thank you for posting the Teacher’s Guide. Even though I am not an educator, I am finding it very valuable for my own use and enjoyment, especially the descriptions of director Greg Doran’s rehearsals.

  • Deb

    I too, must disagree with @Barry. I have been attending Shakepeare productions around the world for over 30 years and have seen numerous productions of Hamlet, including Branagh’s stage version which was brillant (don’t talk to me about the film version). Despiite gaining fame in Dr. Who, David Tennant is a classically trained actor and has performned in many RSC productions in the past.

    I had the great, good pleasure of seeing Tennant’s Hamlet and I can only second the praise that he, the other actors, and the production have received. It is an outstanding piece of work and I believe viewers of GP are in for a rare treat.

    P.S. to @Pete–I have no affiliation with PBS, the RSC, Illunimations, or any of the individuals involved with this production :)

  • Christine

    Thank you PBS for showing this! I’ve been waiting for a year and a half for this news. I was lucky enought to be in England at the time of this performance (and that required a bit of fore-thought, let me tell you) and it was amazing! I saw it in Stratford-upon-Avon with David Tennant (before he injured his back during the London run) and was blown away by the performance. I couldn’t wait to show my friends and family back home in the States, because even then I knew it would be one of the few RSC productions they’d make a film version of (it was just that good, not to mention having two very well-known British actors) but I knew it’d be over a year before that happened. I’m glad the wait is finally over and everyone will soon know what all the squealing was about. :)

  • Lee

    Barry, I’m not normally one to nitpick spelling on self-righteous “get real” posts. But if you’re going to lord it over us about how you know far better than we do what Hamlet should be, you might want to be sure you’re spelling “Olivier” and “Branagh” correctly. For that matter, when you copy and paste your troll comments, try to remember to cut out the “See More”.

  • Irene

    I’m very happy to see that DT and PS will be on Great Performances in Hamlet! And just a little note to Barry et al.:

    I’ve never understood the need to pronounce “THE ONE” rather than celebrate the variety of those engaged in trying to give life to the performing arts, each in his or her own unique way. How much richer and rewarding is it to rejoice in multiple interpretations rather than limit expression to only one “appropriate” way? I think the desire to anoint “the best” stems from the needs of the “anointer”. “If the singer/dancer/actor/artist/sculptor etc. who appeals to MY sensibilities is the best, then I must be the best too.” It would seem to be some sort of ego-generated psychological piggy-backing. There is NO ONE WAY TO PERFORM HAMLET.

  • Liz

    Hope I can get a copy in Australia, I loved that play at school, and it would be great to see David in it.

  • Jessica

    For a second there, I thought that the knife was a sonic screwdriver! Anyways, I’ve been dying to see this and I am so glad that it will finally be shown in the US. Hamlet is my favorite Shakespeare play and David Tennant is my favorite actor so I’m deeply excited!

  • Caro

    Yes, I’m another who’ll disagree with @Barry — though not just because I’m a huge fan of David Tennant, who was the primary reason I made the trek from California to London to see this production. This is by far the best *ensemble* production of Hamlet I’ve ever seen. For example, Oliver Ford Davies is superb as Polonius, making one actually feel sympathy for a man who was clearly once a powerhouse but is now fading and just aware of it enough to know he desperately needs to hang on until he can secure his family’s future, make certain Ophelia marries well and Laertes gets his start in the world. There’s a darkness rumbling in Ed Bennett’s Laertes, too, that I don’t recall seeing in other performances, perhaps informed by his stint as Hamlet while Tennant was out for surgery.

    Productions of Hamlet all too often focus on the single character; this is much, much more — and while I would have been disappointed in not seeing Tennant on stage (I was lucky that my tickets were for the closing performance, so he had returned), this was a cast that was indeed worth seeing and I think it’s wonderful that it’s preseved on film. Yes, I’ve seen it already; all-region DVD players are a wonderful thing — though I also have copies for the Region 1 DVD on pre-order. Those are being donated to the library of a school I’m affiliated with, so the students have access to it when they’re studying Shakespeare.

    @Irene — I have to agree with you about there being no one way to perform Hamlet; the “best” Hamlet is the one that speaks to the particular individual. For me, that was this production; other Hamlets are available. (Sorry; BBC joke heard too many time on commentaries.)

    And, @Pete, nope, not officially affiliated with PBS; just someone who thinks this is a tremendous production (it’s a very fast three hours) and who grew up watching Great Performances and glad to see it is still with us to share things like this.

  • juli

    i look forward to this production. one question: can i watch it on the internet?

  • Jill

    PBS, thank you, thank you, thank you for making this available on the internet. I don’t have a TV and would be SO SAD to miss this amazing performance I’ve been reading about for months!

  • Laurel

    Helene posted that there was a teacher’s guide? Where do I get that? And I only wish that our PBS station wasn’t running this so late (9pm -12:30am!); some of us have to get going early the next day! Nonetheless, I can’t wait to see the complete show. What little I saw on the internet previously nearly had me in tears as Hamlet et al die. Anyone who can take a scene that is so familiar and even (dare I say) trite, and spin it in a fresh and gripping manner, has my deep admiration. David Tennant brings a new life and voice to a tired though indisputably gripping character. Thanks to BBC and PBS for creating and sharing this program!

  • Helene



    You can access the Teacher’s Guide from the top-right-hand side of your computer screen on this “Hamlet” site, under the heading, “In This Episode.” The guide has some additional videos that are fabulous!

  • Helene

    @Laurel, and others who need to wake up early the next day …

    A quick check of Great Performances listings reveals that for those who can get PBS’s Channel 39 (Lehigh Valley TV – WLVT), “Hamlet” will begin at 8 p.m. on Wednesday evening, an hour earlier than on Philadelphia’s WHYY.

    And I agree with Laurel. Beginning a program of this length at 9 p.m. is too late for a week night. WHYY could’ve timed this better.

  • Nel

    My 10 year old nephew, a big Doctor Who fan, mentioned he would like to see this production (also aided by his fascination with the “real skull” after reading about it in his “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” book). I don’t really care why he wants to see it, but if it leaves him with an interest in Shakespeare and theatre, that’s good enough. So thank you PBS, and David Tennant! :)

    Just a shame that PBS doesn’t seem to be doing much PR for this as far as I can tell? WNET is my network and the sponsor, but I haven’t even seen any commercials for it on channel 13, and I watch 13 fairly regularly. Where’s the life-size Hamlet cardboard cut-out in the window of your brand new Lincoln Center studio? ;)
    It would also be good to publicize that the whole thing will be available on-line after it airs on TV. BBC iplayer has had great success with similar initiatives.

  • Laurel

    Hey, Nel, I don’t know why they aren’t promoting it, but if you find that “Hamlet” cutout (life-sized, of course), DO let us all know… :)

  • Maddarilke

    This is, by far, the best production of HAMLET I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a few! I’ve seen Liev Schreiber in the role, Jude Law, Laurence Olivier, Mel Gibson, Kenneth Branagh, and Ethan Hawke, to name a few. The strength of the cast and production is the most riveting, heartbreaking and intelligent I’ve ever experienced. David Tennant is absolutely original in his performance, which I found far more emotionally gripping than any other; his chemistry with his co-stars is unique. Sir Patrick Stewart, too, in the dual roles of Claudius and the Ghost, is a genius, and beautifully speaks the lines both with natural ease and the rhythm and poetry they are due.

    Everyone in the cast is a standout–I might also point out the wonderful Peter De Jersey, brilliant and sympathetic as the ever-loyal Horatio. The production value is unsurpassed.

    BRAVO to PBS for airing this in the US at last, & I echo the producer’s thanks in having a hand in its production.

  • Nicole

    As a huge fan of both David Tennant and Sir Patrick Stewart, I am so excited about the opportunity to see them perform in Hamlet. When I had heard about the original production, I was so envious of our friends across the pond who were able to see it. Thank you PBS. Now more of America will come to know David’s utter genius.

  • Sally

    I can’t wait to see this tomorrow night. I love Shakespeare. I have since high school. I am also a fan of David Tennant and Patrick Stewart, not just because of their iconic sci-fi roles, but because of the depth of their experience. They both cut their teeth at RSC and I know this production will be enhanced by the depth of their experiences. I have seen several versions of Hamlet, on film and stage, and always look forward to a new one. My son is in college now, studying acting. I am sure that he and his friends will be gathered around the screen tomorrow night. Thank you, Great Performances, for bringing this to the US.

  • Dalen Rune

    Tuesday, 5th of May, 6026 Anno Mundi Vulgaris / 25998 Mayan Common Era
    Marsday, 7th of Taurus, 6026 Anno Mundi Vulgaris
    Dies Martis, 14th of Aprilis, 2763 Ab Urbe Condita
    Tuesday, 27th of April, 2010 Common Era
    @ 14:30 Universal Time Coordinated.
    I think you need to know that Great Performances “Hamlet”
    with Mr. David (John McDonald) Tennant and Sir Patrick Stewart
    will come on P.B.S. @ 20:00 or 8:00 P.M. E.D.T. U.T.C. -4
    and NOT 20:00 or 8:00 P.M. E.S.T. (formally known as Eastern Time) U.T.C. -5.
    As you can see that is a difference of one whole hour.
    As always check your local listings if you can find them. Thank you.

  • dean

    the whole thing looks very camp. stewart always is. i’m intrigued.

  • Liza

    Excited. XXOO PBS!

  • Maggie Holley

    Looks fantastic- But when will Australian viewers get to see it!!??
    Will grab the DVD for sure!

  • Nancy

    I can’t wait to see it tonight! We are big David Tennant fans and even bigger PBS and Masterpiece fans!! I do wish PBS would carry Doctor Who, as well!

  • Eileen

    The first complete Hamlet I saw was with Sir Patrick as Claudius…and Sir Derek Jacobi in the title role. It cemented my love for Shakespeare (I was also lucky enough to see Sir Derek as Benedick later in the year, on stage).

    I am a huge fan of Mr. Tennant’s work, and Sir Patrick’s as well. Having watched a few clips from the production I am sure that this will be one of the best and most enjoyable performances I’ve ever seen of a Shakespeare play.

    Thank you, PBS, for showing it, and also for having it available for a time on the web.

  • Robin

    I had the opportunity to see this in Stratford-Upon-Avon and have to reiterate what most of the above commenters have said: this is brilliant. Hamlet is generally my least favorite of Shakespeare’s plays, but this renewed my interest in the story and I found it absolutely brilliant. Not only does David Tennant give this character a breath of fresh air, but the entire cast brings 110% to their performances. Patrick Stewart nearly makes one feel sympathetic for the man who killed Hamlet’s father. Oliver Ford Davies very nearly steals every scene he is in as Polonius. And Mariah Gale’s turn as Ophelia literally gave me goosebumps.

  • Richard

    Fascinating, but my wife is watching “IDOL” whileI wait for commercials and the end of the broadcast so I can view it on WSRE online. PBS you have rewarded usagain.

    Patick Stewart is well cast in this role.

  • Cory

    Having seen the live production in Stratford-upon-Avon (and hung around for Love’s Labours Lost and A Midsummer Night’s Dream while I was all the way over there in the UK), I have to say the entire cast was phenomenal. The actor who plays the gravedigger played Puck in “Dream” and he was phenomenal. I was most impressed with Edward Bennett, who plays Laertes in this production. I saw three of his performances and was incredibly impressed by all of them. My biggest regret is that I could not afford to go back again when I found out he was filling in as Hamlet. I would have loved to see that.

  • Brian

    I have been checking this website and googling for months trying to find when this would broadcast and just turned my TV on find it on right in the middle! Please re-broadcast this and promote it better!

  • Bill Williams

    Shakespeare + Hamlet + Patrick Stewart = AWESOME! When this hits DVD and/or Blu-ray, I am SO owning it!

    As for which version is the absolute best, it’s like comparing one car to another. Every version from the RSC to Branagh to Zeffirelli/Gibson to Olivier, to Kevin Kline’s New York Shakespeare Festival adaptation during the 1990’s (in modern dress and an empty stage), no one version is superior to another, though Patrick Stewart is definitely Olivier’s successor for our generation. It’s the next best thing to seeing the RSC live on stage. As for a teacher’s guide, there should be one produced. This deserves to be studied in schools and colleges for years to come.

  • Liz

    What’s with the security cameras throughout the show??

  • fotos.david


  • Jason

    As a huge fan of David’s tenure as the Doctor, I knew his performance as Hamlet was equally special. Boy is that an understatement now since I’ve seen it several times. I actually watched this film for the first time the same day it premiered on the BBC right before David’s last episode, The End of Time, in Doctor Who. Bloody brilliant that Shakespeare was a lead in for the longest running science fiction series in history yet let me tell you, both David’s Hamlet and Doctor bare striking similarities, especially in David’s final few episodes as the Doctor. Madness, isolation and “raging against the dying of the light” all converge in both his performance as the great Dane and as the legendary Time Lord whose world has come apart due to his own arrogance. Wow! What an actor. Watch his face, his mannerisms. The body language he uses tells so much about who his Hamlet is as well as his Doctor. It’s genius. And David’s last line as the Doctor, “I don’t want to go” is as just as powerful and as indicative as his final lines in Hamlet, “I die Horatio.”

  • Brian

    To say I was disappointed is an understatement.

    Why was the director so arch in his emphasis on mirrors and cameras?

    He had the temerity to change the word “arras” to “mirror” in the slaying of Polonius scene but keeps the word “beard” in the “O what a rogue and peasant slave am I” soliloquy when this Hamlet has none. The arras image is central to the play in that everything done during Claudius’ reign is covered, hidden to the court and Denmark in general.

    Hamlet’s instructions to the players to avoid both sawing the air with their hands as well as histrionic speech is already violated when Hamlet speaks it. Tennant’s subsequent actions and speeches continue the aforementioned histrionics.

    For a play to run as long as this Hamlet does, then edit out speeches such as the player’s allusion to contemporary theatrical fads in London (boys playing all the parts) and to omit entirely the appearance of young Fortinbras at the conclusion is unfathomable.

    And Patrick Stewart’s shrug (apparently his own invention) before quaffing the poison seems to say, “This production is so fubarred that I wash my hands of it.

    This Hamlet is a drama queen. Was that the point?

    Three hours wasted.

  • carrobin

    Just watched the show. Terrific. I’d read some of the British reviews of the show so I had high expectations, and they were met and surpassed. I love Tennant, who was superb, and Patrick Stewart was fine, but I’d like to have a cast list to identify the other actors. Couldn’t find it on the PBS site.

  • John Wyver

    @carrobin Thanks for the kind comments – cast and crew list here http://www.illuminationsmedia.co.uk/filmstobuy/product/275/hamlet.html
    plus download of programme notes from BFI Southbank screening in December.

  • Michelle

    Unless I’m much mistaken, Hamlet was supposed to end at 20 minutes ago, 11:30 EST. Up above, it says that it will be online here at “Great Performances” *immediately* following the broadcast…..Is my idea of immediately and PBS’s idea of immediately different, or has it been put up and I’m just missing it?

    I really need my David Tennant fix…..

  • Missmary

    There are several putdowns of David Tennant in this thread. I was amused to see they were all men. The green-eyed monster was evident, since Mr. Tennant’s performance was brilliant. Try not to be so obvious, fellas.

  • scratchbaker

    Kenneth Branaugh’s “Hamlet” is much, much more memorable for its cast, direction, and rhythm. This “Hamlet’ seems rushed and the direction is pretty unimaginative and banal. A lot of these comments seem star struck. At least “the play’s the thing”. Horray for Shakespeare.

  • Ryan

    I think David Tennant shows great skill as an actor. As a dramatic practitioner myself, I enjoy seeing performances of talent and skill. Which is why I’m disappointed to find that the full episode of Hamlet is not available here as promised, immediately following the broadcast. Either that, or I am technologically challenged.

  • Connie

    Michelle – I was wondering the same thing. I suppose I can wait till tomorrow, but was really hoping to watch it tonight. I don’t have cable, and even if I did, I was at work during the broadcast….

  • Michelle

    Ryan-Nope, not technically challenged. Or else we all are….

    Connie-Yup. Although, I’d not actually heard it was on until a good hour or more after it started. Of course, I’d not have been able to watch it on TV, given that not only do I not have a TV in my dorm (although I suppose I could have invaded the lounge), I unfortunately had other obligations….*sigh*

  • Suzanne

    I can’t understand why they would cut so much of the “To be or not to be” speech. What a strange thing to do.

  • Mac

    Hey, it’s still on here on the west coast! patience, laddies

  • Joy

    I’v never liked Hamlet. I’ve never been able to understand the character, feel sympathetic to his struggles. He’s always struck me as a overdramatic baby, and various productions had me rolling my eyes, snorting with disdain, sighing with boredom, always leaving me with a sense that something wasn’t getting across. This one had me breathless and in tears. It *nails* it; the characters are all so complete and so real. Just when you think “to be or not to be” has been done to death, it’s fresh and new, and real. And amazing.

  • Mandy

    Simply fantastic. Such a powerhouse on film, I can’t even imagine what it would have been like live. Thank you, PBS.

  • Jerry

    I just finished watching The Great Performance broadcast of a great and near complete Hamlet this evening on KUER-TV in Salt Lake City. However I was shocked when the broadcast suddenly faded out just as Hamlet dies, deleted the last 5 or so minutes of the play, and cutting instead to actors and critics talking about the play. It was also disconcerting to have a several-minute Great Performance commercial of coming attractions break in at the very moment Hamlet intending to kill Claudius approaches his uncle who is trying to pray for forgiveness. Apparently somebody at PBS saw this as some sort of cliff-hanging moment!! So to get full benefit of this magnificent production I guess I’m just going to have to wait until my local library gets it in so I can enjoy it without the interference of the PBS powers-that-be.

  • Liz

    I too missed half of this ……..(words fail me) performance. Why was this not more widely publicized???
    Please can you show it again!!!

  • Alison Strang

    I was riveted by the whole thing but not totally blown away by David Tennant, although much of what he did was brilliant. I enjoyed the whole production, only wish that the full cast was not run by at lightning speed and on half screen (this always drives me crazy!) No one has mentioned the brilliant Hamlet of Derek Jacobi in the BBC versions of all the plays. Jacobi spoke the beautiful lines with true beauty, for Shakespeare you need that beauty, Patrick Stewart had the beauty and the power, as did the actress who played Gertrude (see I missed her name) Loved the gravedigger but also have always loved that of Stanley Holloway in the Olivier production. Now I have to go back and look for the entire cast. Thank you to PBS and Great Performances for airing this and, of course, to the wonderful British crew and cast who made the whole thing possible.

  • Amanda

    Incredible! Few stage performances can translate so well on film, and this one manages to maintain the intensity and energy of live theater, which of course bears testimony to DT’s great performance.

    Thank God for the BBC! American public broadcasting would not be the same without your country’s *incredible* talent and generosity for partnering with PBS.

  • Mary Logan

    I DVRed the event last night but was only able to watch up through the scene with Hamlet and Gertrude before I had to go to bed. Without letterboxing the screen, it seems someone was always cut out when he or she shared a scene with anyone else which was annoying, but I figured I could wait to have it uploaded here to continue. It’s April 29 at 8:18am EST and so far the program wasn’t uploaded as promised. Please please please upload it soon! I plan to order the blueray May 5, but I need my Hamlet fix now!

  • CottageArtist

    I am not a “fan” of any of the actors in this production, nor have I seen many productions of Hamlet. But I think that this film was extraordinary. David Tennant was superb. I never thought much of his talents in the Dr. Who series but after this production I think he is and will continue to be one of the best actors around. Most of the other actors were outstanding. Although I appreciate Patrick Stewart I think that he was the weakest actor in the show. He seemed too old, too weak , too grandfatherly to overthrow and murder the king. He seemed too uninvolved and somewhat remote; not a strong character in either of the two roles. His shrug at the end before he drank the poison (which he would not explain in the trailer) was just silly. It was something that the characters of “The Office” would do. His delivery of the lines was weak. The dialog was sometime difficult to hear with the echo effect and contrary to what some others have said I liked the use of the surveilance camera. It was effective as the action moved from scene to scene. I liked the set too, with the black walls, glossy floor and the cracked mirrors. Overall, a “Great Performance”.

  • DDog

    Like others, I am waiting for the production to be posted on the website, as I was unable to see it on TV last night. Even if it’s only up for a few days to promote the DVD sale, I’d really like to get a chance to see it before purchasing it. Posting it soon would be very much appreciated by many! Thanks.

  • Doug

    I also was unable to watch last night due to work. I would have missed most of it, so I’m waiting to view it on the website. I did watch the first half hour and it was great.

  • Randel

    To watch this production was more painful than having a tooth pulled. Not only was Mr. Tennant terribly miscast (and my how he over acted. What was he and the director thinking?)as Hamlet, but the modern dress
    was an intrusion and it was in constant conflict with the language. Priorities appeared to be more bent on calling attention to the production than to the story and language. And what a shame that the
    audio was so poorly recorded. I watched it on a theatrical 5:1 system, and the poor audio micing muffled much of the Bard’s poetry. In the long shots, the voices echo because production design used hard
    surfaces and did not take into account acoustics when building the sets. The Brits also do not know how to capture sound in both long shots and close-up so that the audio quality matches. The wide shots
    sounded totally different from the close-ups. Very amateur. Fortunately there were outstanding performances by all others–otherwise, this production should go down as a tawdry exercise.

  • Mike Burke

    So what happened to Fortinbras? Much of the political structure of the play is lost when he does not come in at the end to take charge. The event Denmark has been preparing to avoid from Act 1 actually occurs at the end of Act 5, and without it the play lacks the unity it really demands.

    I liked the security cameras, but was surprised at how derivative the production was. We see echoes of Campbell Scott’s Hamlet in terms of clothing choices, staging, and even some of Tennat’s mannerisms. We see the photography angle lifted from the Ethan Hawke version of the play. The guards’ uniforms seemed lifted from Branagh’s production, a jarring distrction considering everyone else seems to be dressed roughly contemporarily. Ophelia’s clothing also seemed out of place (though her second mad scene was quite good–better than my favorite, Kate Winslet’s). The gravedigger scene, also truncated, seemed in part lifted from Branagh’s version.

    Something commentators have not yet mentioned is casting Patrick Stewart as both Claudius and Ghost–suggesting that either Claudius and Old Hamlet were twins (the famous “naked hamlet” with Helen Mirren and Quentin Crisp has Hamlet played by twins) or that they were so much alike that Hamlet’s over-the-top praise of his father in the bedroom scene is evidence of how deranged he really is at that point–that there is not a dime’s worth of difference between new and old king. And it might even suggest that Claudius has somehow set the whole Ghost business up to catch out Hamlet and eliminate him as a threat to his own rule (keep your friends close, but your enemies closer). If that’s the case, the shrug at the end makes sense–Claudius, like Laertes, has been caught in his own trap.

    I was surprised at so many cut lines (though the business about Hamlet’s return to Denmark was nicely done; I really didn’t miss the pirates–whom I usually like to see). And I did not like the buffoonery of the play within the play–Heston really does that whole business better than anyone else–and in his telling, the Player King’s long speech really fits in to the play as a whole.

    So–good version, not the best; Tennant really grew on me as the play went on and he varied his facial expression more and more. I did order the DVD to use in class this summer–I teach a Shakespeare and film class, so will be able to see what the students think.

  • Orville Eastland

    I saw Hamlet last night and loved it quite a bit. All the actors did an excellent job. David Tennant brought far more of an “antic disposition” into Hamlet than in any of his appearances as the Doctor. Patrick Stewart made an excellent Claudius. John Woodvine was the only other actor I definitely recognized and he did an excellent job. Some of the contemporary bits were a bit off-putting. I didn’t like all the cuts they made, and the few “jumps” were also a bit distracting. Still, it was an excellent performance. I will recommend it to others.

  • Jean

    I am usually not a fan of Shakespeare in modern setting but this was an excellent production and I was thoroughly involved and absorbed through the entire 3 1/2 hours . As a matter of fact, the intermission had a really jarring effect on me. And I think it was very appropriate and effective set in a modern approach.

    David Tennant was marvelous and the entire cast was superior in performance. I’m so glad we got to see this, thanks to PBS!

  • Claire L Neddzela

    I think it is wonderful on my computer and talented actors and the heart of Hamlet I think for all actors like say Samuel Dutton, Jim Hooper and David Ajala are funny for the play on The Mouse Trap it is really funny I never see those actors were funny.
    And my favorite actors are John Woodvine, Roderick Smith and Ricky Champ including David Ajala is good and I see in them they are wonderful actors.
    And I see their experience would for their acting skills and for the production of Hamlet.
    Keith Osborn, Ewen Cummins, Robert Curtis, Roderick Smith they are really good actors in the point of view of the stage for their movement and their spead on the sage.
    I like Mark Hadfield, Sam Alexander, Ryan Cage including Jim Hooper for acting and keep up acting for the production of Hamlet.
    Roderick Smith, David Ajala had played two parts of Prologue and Voltemand the Prince of Norway/ Dumbshow Poisoner and Reynaldo.
    Robert Curtis, Ryan Cage had played two parts of Fortinbras/Francisco, Payer Queen/Osric.
    Sam Alexander had played two parts of Second Gravedigger/Rosencrantz Jim Hooper had played two parts of Dumbshow Queen / Priest.
    Ricky Champ, Tom Davey including Riann Steele and Zoe Thorne for the best performance in Hamlet.
    I want to thank Andrea Harris Samuel Dutton and Oliver Ford Davies for the great show on earth.
    Peter De Jersey and Edward Bennett including Mariah Gale keep up acting for the production of Hamlet.
    David Tennant and Penny Downie for acting Hamlet and his mother Gertrude I say one thing to David Tennant you are good actor and I gave you 100 stars for the best performance for all time.
    I want to Thank Kate Fleetwood’s Husband for directing for the Hamlet DVD and you are a great director.
    Patrick Stewart for doing Claudius/Ghost of Hamlet’s father you are really good as I am so proud of you for keep me better and I am find and I hope you are a great actor and I like the music for Hamlet I hope you have a great day for England and the Queen Elizabeth if you see Maddy she is my friend she is the Queen Elizabeth 3rd
    Great Performance keep up the good work

  • Sonia Sassine

    A great performance. Very well done and enjoyed tremendously.

  • david ernst

    Dear Viewers,

    We hope you enjoyed Hamlet last night on Great Performances. In case you missed it, the entire program is available on our website, just click the link “Watch the Film” in the upper right hand corner of any Hamlet related page. The full video is also available on the PBS video website at http://video.pbs.org/.

    For those looking to purchase the program it is available to order online at http://www.shoppbs.org. Here is a direct link to the blu-ray version (also available in DVD). Thanks again for watching, and we hope you stay tuned for more Great Performances!

  • Vicki Elberfeld

    Although undeniably talented, David Tennant just didn’t grip me emotionally as Hamlet. Patrick Stewart, however, played Claudius with genuine warmth and restraint and he, along with the rest of the sterling cast, carried the production.

  • Alison Massa

    I find the variety of replies fascinating. The range of interpretations attests to the effectiveness of the production. I agree with those who appreciated the accessibility of David Tennant’s performance, which I found highly intelligent and deeply felt as well as original. The emphasis on the sense of the words brings fresh life to the poetry, with new insights into its intention and thus a new appreciation of its beauty. By contrast, I disagree with those who appreciated Patrick Stewart for his more measured “speaking of the lines with beauty.” Bill Williams is right to place Stewart in the tradition of Olivier, for this was Olivier’s style. Olivier was still dominant when I was in high school and had my first encounter with Hamlet on stage — at the Old Vic with Richard Burton. Burton, the stage actor become big screen star, was clearly anxious to avoid “declaiming the purple passages” but lacked the conviction of what I suspect was his instinct to emphasize Hamlet’s mental and spiritual turmoil rather than his words. As a result, he appeared intimidated by the role and his soliloquies were almost inaudible. It was not until Branagh came along that speaking the lines more for their direct and practical or intimate meaning than for their beauty became legitimate. For that I believe we have a lot to thank “Brash Ken” for.

    That evolution, or revolution, has also allowed actors to give us new insights into parts that were once often little more than caricatures. One of the great strengths of this production lies in the balanced ensemble of completely fleshed out characters. Penny Downie and Oliver Ford Davies are superb but we also feel we get to know even Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern and the First Player.

  • Jen Green

    Like Alison, I found the diversity of responses fascinating; it speaks to a production’s strengths. I enjoyed much of what David Tennant did. I feel exhausted at times by his intensity and energy, but he caught the stillness of the readings well, and grounded many lines that at times are let fly (ex: ‘you would seem to know my stops …” etc). As well, much of the humor missing from some of the productions mentioned was returned in this production, and the scenes with Polonius were brilliant (and some, too short). Kudos to all the actors, directors, and production staff. The rest of what I feel is ‘armchair directing,’ and some of my fave lines were cut, … and yes, it did feel at times rushed … (the once scene between Ophelia and Hamlet was a bit short-changed), but overall I feel very happy to have seen this, and look forward to watching it again. Cheers –

  • Cats

    I agree with Alison and Jen. These comments are fascinating. Did we all see the same play? So much depends on the experiences and expectations we bring to the work. Alison, I think maybe you’re right about Kenneth Branagh, but go back and watch him again now that you’ve seen this. I did, and discovered that his relentlessly staccato delivery irritates me now. What a shame, because I don’t believe there’s only one correct Hamlet. But Tennant’s is so fresh and sad and funny and real it’s hard to like others as well as I used to. The gravedigger scene was amazing. I’ve always felt that every Hamlet I’ve seen was just reciting poetry, not expressing any actual feeling or thought about life and death, let alone about Yorick. I have been enthusiastically deconstructing how Tennant did it to anyone who’ll listen, which would take a essay-length posting here, but he had me at “Alas.” With the rest of the soliloquy he hit me like a body blow with how close Hamlet was, in that moment, to his own death. I may have noted that fact in Hamlets before, but never, ever, felt it.

  • Shirley

    As a Doctor Who/Tennant fan it was natural to want to see this. The range of acting to play Doctor Who is quite underrated by many. On seeing Hamlet, hopefully many will discover the talent of this man from across the pond. He has brought me to laughter, tears and even despair in his performances. His Hamlet has out done many actors that have gone before, giving you the feeling that the role was always his. I have read Hamlet and seen several versions but for the first time I believe I truly understood what was being said and more, what was being felt by this tortured character. David Tennant was Magnificent and my only hope is that the American audience will come to appreciate the brilliance of his interpretation of his craft so that we might see him more in this country.

  • Christle

    Thanks for airing this, PBS! I’m a huge fan of both Patrick Stewart…Sir Patrick Stewart now, excuse me…and David Tennant, so I’m so happy to finally be able to see this! I was worried I’d never be able to, since I don’t have the kind of money to be able to fly to England from California to see this performed, and it’s no longer on stage, anyway, so I was pleased that it was playing twice last night, since I missed most of the first showing.

  • Marilyn Sitaker

    I saw David Tennant as the Doctor, once–may have seen him hosting Masterpiece Theater. But basically didn’t know him. But I have seen many versions of Hamlet onscreen and stage, and feel that this production brought out subtleties in the story and in the character that I hadn’t seen before. Was Hamlet mad? Only pretending to be mad? Or pretending to be mad yet seriously, darkly disturbed underneath all his pretence? Tennant kept me engaged and pondering the whole way through.

  • Jason

    I’ve watched this twice now. Once on PBS, again on the website. I really did like this production. Very well done. Sir Patrick Stewart and David Tennant, so very well done. I was pleasantly entertained with Oliver Ford Davies’ Polonius.

    Thank you BBC, Illuminations, and PBS for bringing this to life and sharing it. I only wish I could’ve seen these actors on live-stage performance.

  • Murray Gewirtz

    I, too, have seen a great many different productions of Hamlet, but still feel that the one with Edwin Booth was the best. … only kidding.

    I never saw David Tennant as Dr. Who, so he never reminded me of that character as he seems to have some other viewers. However, as soon as I saw David Tennant in action as Hamlet, especially once he “goes mad,” with his wild jumping around and gestures, and grotesque facial expressions, he definitely did remind me of someone. He seemed to be playing Hamlet as interpreted by Jim Carrey! I’m surprised that none of the reviews or comments I read mentioned this. Yet when I called my son, who is not a fan of Shakespeare, to the TV screen, and asked him who Tennant reminded him of, he immediately replied, “Jim Carrey.”

    I don’t mean this observation as negative criticism. (I like Jim Carrey, who seems to play a madman all the time.) Tennant’s interpretation was fine, and seemed to make the meaning of the words clearer than when I heard them before, and his antic behavior was appropriate for someone half mad and feigning the rest of the way.

    To me, Patrick Stewart was better as the ghost, than as Claudius, where, as some have observed, he seemed too low-key , quiet and reserved.

  • Shaxpur

    Just brilliant!

  • Sarah

    Words fail to describe this production. I work in theater as a tech, and have been a devotee of Hamlet for twenty-plus years, so I thought I’d seen it all. It was a privilege to witness this transcendent piece.

  • Martha

    I must confess to not having see this – waiting for the DVD – but might I suggest to all of you who see David Tennant solely as ‘The Doctor’ search out the show “The Secret Smile”? You will never see him the same again, and might – just might- be able to see him as what he is: A truly brilliant and gifted Actor.

  • Trojan

    ROFL at the CONDOMS!!!

  • Daniel Kirk

    I know all these actors. Personally. Stewart, Tennant, Oliver Ford Davies, Judi Dench, etc. etc.
    I lead a theatre tour to London and Stratford in July/August.
    We’ve been waylaid by the economy tank but want to bring it back up in 2011.
    We are the English Theatre Experience.dot com
    Or kirkdanl@aol.com
    And Tennant, Stewart, and Ford-Davies have spoken in our London

  • Jennifer

    I would agree with you! He has such diversity in his acting…it gave me chills.

    There were parts I could see The Doctor, but like someone mentioned earlier, every actor has certain characteristics they carry from one role to the next. It’s obvious everyone who watched the film had certain expectations of what they would view. Some were pleasantly surprised, some disappointed, while others were captivated by the story and its presentation. This, my friends, is the beauty of Shakespeare. It is open to interpretation. Not everyone will agree, but most will agree it is one of The Bard’s most intriguing works.

  • Bob

    hey does anyone know where i may find a website to watch this i need to for english

  • girlie

    you nailed @Barry! GOOD FOR YOU! tennant has moved to the top of my hamlet list! wow! im receiving the dvd for my birthday! twice was not enough!

  • http://www.agreensupply.net Brady Meyerman

    I see people using plastic bags in the grocery store every weekend. It makes me angry sometimes. When will our local government ban these ugly plastic bags? Sometimes, I wanted to tell the people in line to just bring their own plastic bags or get a few of durable green supply bags. These bags last me a long time. I even don’t remember the last time I paid for the bags. Do yourself a favor, buy a few of these reusable bags and put them in your car. Even better, give it to the nice person in front of the line when you see he/she is asking for plastic bags.

  • Melody Beth Sniderman

    Unfortunately, I do not have access to television since the switch to digital broadcasting. I miss everything that 13 stands for: intelligent, caring, well researched, and age approach programming. Like most viewers, I have my favourites. The one program I miss the most and would choose, if I was to watch only one hour per week, would be NATURE!!!!!!!!!!

  • babette

    Watching Tennant’s Skeletor arm-waving, eye-rolling grotesquery of a Hamlet was a hoot and perhaps the worst trashing of a Shakespearean play I’d seen; except, for McKellen’s Macbeth’s unnecessary and disgusting projectile spit, loosing gobs down the front of his tunic in the banquet scene, Tennant wins hands down.

    Tennant thought that paddling around barefoot whilst wearing a suit was an especially clever and original way to depict Hamlet’s “madness.” It wasn’t. (In addition, with feet that ugly he should keep them shod at all times.)

    McKellen thought that spraying buckets of phlegm was an especially profound and original way to signal Macbeth’s going mad. It might be, but nobody in his right mind wants to see that.

    And yet these two buffoons are admired and acclaimed!

    Obviously the Dumbing Down of the Masses is a “fait accompli.”

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