As promised, the ex-Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre boss has cast some parts with youngsters. “Something extraordinary happens when the characters who are students in Shakespeare’s story are being played by people of exactly student age,” says Nunn. So, the moody Dane has been allotted to unknown (despite a part in the NT’s His Dark Materials) Ben Whishaw, 23. Ophelia will be played by Samantha Whittaker, a 19-year-old English student from University College London who has left her course to make her stage debut. Imogen Stubbs (aka Mrs.Trevor Nunn) plays Gertrude with Tom Mannion as Claudius and Nick Jones as Polonius. The rest of the cast includes Jotham Annan (Horatio), Lewis Barfoot, Edward Hughes (Guildenstern), Rory Kinnear (Laertes), Jack Laskey, Sid Livingstone (Voltimand), Tom Mison (Fortinbras), Samuel Roukin (Osric), James Simmons (Marcellus), Kevin Wathen (Rosencrantz) and Al Weaver (Reynaldo and some performances of Hamlet).
Nunn first directed the play at the age of 17, with the amateur Ipswich Youth Drama Group. He last did it with the RSC in 1970, when Alan Howard played Hamlet with Helen Mirren as Ophelia.
Meanwhile, the RSC is preparing a new Hamlet production for July, which will be directed by the new chief Michael Boyd and will star 34-year-old Toby Stephens. The RSC will also include Sian Thomas as Gertrude and Greg Hicks as Claudius, and the RSC is currently in talks to secure a London transfer for the production.
The most successful Hamlet of recent years starred Russell Beale at the National Theatre; he was 39 at the time.