The BBC have now released their full programme details for David Tennant’s episode of Shakespeare Uncovered. In the programme David investigates Hamlet, arguably the greatest play that Shalespeare ever wrote and a role he himself took on for the RSC in 2008.
In Hamlet, David Tennant, whose own RSC performance was a huge hit, meets other actors who have played the role – from the legendary David Warner in the 1960s to the recent Jude Law. He also tries, alongside Simon Russell Beale and Ben Whishaw, to unravel the meaning of the play and the reason why it is considered by many to be the greatest play Shakespeare ever wrote.
David Tennant surprised when he took on the role of Hamlet – most did not know that he had trained in and worked for many years at the Royal Shakespeare Company. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t scared stiff at the prospect of taking on the legendary role. Now he takes up the challenge of unravelling the story and trying to uncover what it is about it that has made Hamlet the most famous of all of Shakespeare’s plays.
He revisits his own performance, alongside his director Greg Doran, and he meets up with other actors who have tackled the role. With the historian Justin Champion he tries to enter the mindset of the 16th century audiences who would have watched this story and he discovers how different generations of actors, directors and scholars have interpreted the play.
What he discovers is that Hamlet is a play full of questions rather than answers – but they are the questions we all continue to ask ourselves to this day. Questions about who to believe, who to trust, how to live and how to love, how to understand life and how to face death. What all the actors who have played it seem to share is that the process of acting the role is deeply and profoundly personal – and perhaps that is why audiences also feel that the play touches them more than any other play before or since.
Shakespeare Uncovered: David Tennant On Hamlet can be seen on BBC on Tuesday 17th July at 11.20pm, with a repeat on BBC HD at 11.50pm on Wednesday 18th July. The series Shakespeare Uncovered was produced for Blakeway Productions by Richard Denton and the episode was directed by Nicola Stockley.