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The story of Hamlet, Shakespeare’s most famous and perhaps most influential tragedy, is one that is well trodden on theatre boards around the world. Set in Denmark, it recounts how Prince Hamlet exacts revenge on his uncle Claudius, who has murdered Hamlet’s father, the King, taken the throne and married Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother. It vividly charts the course of real and feigned madness — from overwhelming grief to seething rage — and explores themes of treachery, revenge, incest, and moral corruption.
In 2008, the UK’s eminent Royal Shakespeare Company brought Hamlet back to the stage, spoken in verse but with contemporary dress and David Tennant in the eponymous role. No recent stage production in Britain has attracted either the level of interest or the near-unanimously positive reviews.
Tennant’s interpretation was recognised as defining the role for a generation, and Patrick Stewart – playing Claudius – as a performance of great depth and complexity (for which the actor won a highly-coveted 2009 Olivier award).
But director Gregory Doran’s modern-dress production was also seen as a brilliant ensemble presentation that was thrilling, fast-moving, immediately accessible, supremely intelligent and – perhaps remarkably – in parts at least, very funny.
In this specially-shot screen version of the stage play (which is filmed on location rather than in the theatre), Tennant and Stewart reprise their roles, along with director Doran and set and costume designer Robert Jones. Wholly faithful to the stage production and its performances; dynamic, exciting and contemporary, it brings Shakespeare’s greatest play to a far wider audience than ever before.