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Sci Fi Saves Shakespeare, For Real This Time

Illustration for article titled Sci Fi Saves Shakespeare, For Real This Time

For the second time in his career, David Tennant is finding himself saving Shakespeare. But this time around, he's doing so without the use of a TARDIS, and with the help of a certain bald-headed former captain of the starship Enterprise. The hottest ticket in British theatreland is Hamlet, and it's all down to the powers of sci-fi TV.The current Royal Shakespeare Company production of Shakespeare's Danish tragedy stars not only Tennant (in his first of two Shakespeare roles this year; he does Love's Labors Lost later this year, before taking Hamlet to the West End in December) but also Star Trek: The Next Generation's Patrick Stewart as Claudius, and despite concerns over stunt-casting, the production has been winning critics over, with many reviews as positive as this one, from the Guardian:

The big news from Stratford is that Gregory Doran's production is one of the most richly textured, best-acted versions of the play we have seen in years. And Tennant, as anyone familiar with his earlier work with the RSC would expect, has no difficulty in making the transition from the BBC's Time Lord to a man who could be bounded in a nutshell and count himself a king of infinite space. He is a fine Hamlet whose virtues, and occasional vices, are inseparable from the production itself.

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More importantly, the stars' popularity has brought a new audience to Shakespeare; the AP quotes attendees of the previews professing their love for Stewart and saying things like, "The last thing I lined up for was 'ET' when it came out," and the RSC have been forced to make a statement asking fans not purchase scalped tickets online, according to the Times:

Sci-fi fans have been camping overnight in the hope of return tickets or, at least, a glimpse of the actor between rehearsals. While ten £5 seats are set aside each day for 16 to 25-year-olds, who have to turn up at the box office in person, tickets are changing hands on eBay for hundreds of pounds, to the dismay of the RSC. Chris Hill, the company's director of sales and marketing, said: "The RSC does not support the selling of tickets at inflated prices on eBay or other internet auction sites. The reselling of any RSC ticket on such sites violates the terms and conditions associated with the purchase of the ticket." He cautioned: "We are contacting anyone who lists a ticket to explain that they must remove the listing . . . People who do purchase a ticket in this way run the risk of being refused admission."

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While it may not be as impressive as helping old William fight off witches determined to steal his soul, Tennant's latest rescue attempt does have more real world value; if the demand for Hamlet's end of year run is as great as the current production, does this mean that we'll see more SF faces in "serious" theater to come? If so, I'm holding out until Stargate's Robert Picardo takes on Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Royal Shakespeare Company warning over David Tennant Hamlet tickets [Times Online]

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DISCUSSION

I don't know why anybody's so surprised about SF fans being interested in Shakespeare. Old William S. is positively LITTERED through SF, and media SF in particular. Several original Star Trek episodes reference Shakespeare directly or indirectly. Dr. Who actually meets Shakespeare. ST:Next Generation did several Shakespeare bits and had Stewart, himself an RSC member (who was in I, Claudius). Forbidden Planet is basically an SF version of the Tempest. Episodes of TV shows like Stargate and comics like the X-men have been quoting him for decades. (I remember wondering what the title "How Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth..." for a story in the X-men featuring Proteus meant, and found out it was a quote by the Bard, which made more sense in context of that story, but was my first exposure to that sort of thing).

I'm having a hard time seeing a downside to this. I only regret I've never gotten a chance to see Stewart's one-man Christmas Carol show, which is supposed to be fantastic.