Due to a back injury suffered by Tennant, understudy Edward Bennett will perform in the production, which began previews Dec. 3. Bennett also played the role at the Dec. 8 performance of Hamlet; he normally plays the role of Laertes.
In a statement RSC artistic director Michael Boyd said, "As an ensemble company we feel that it is important to go ahead with tonight's performance. While understanding that some people will be disappointed at not seeing David Tennant on stage, this production, like all our productions, is more than the sum of its parts – an ensemble of actors, designers, composers etc. and we should respect that by going ahead as planned."
RSC chief associate director Gregory Doran, who directed the production, added, "David is gutted, not only at the thought of disappointing audiences, but also to be unable to perform a role that he has worked on and developed throughout 60 performances in Stratford-upon-Avon. Before this injury, he has only ever been off for one performance in his entire career to date, and is hoping that he will be able to return to the show as quickly as possible. It is an indication of the RSC's investment in understudies that Ed Bennett can take over from David in one of Shakespeare's largest roles at such short notice."
Edward Bennett has also been seen in Othello at the Donmar Warehouse, Little Neil and Pygmalion at Theatre Royal Bath, and Nan and Skin Game at Richmond Orange Tree, among others. His screen credits include "Friends Just United," "After Your Gone" and "Silent Witness."
At the Dec. 9 performance Tom Davey will take on the role of Laertes, Ricky Champ will be Guildenstern and Robert Curtis will play Lucianus. Also featured in the cast are Patrick Stewart and Penny Downie as, respectively, Claudius and Gertrude, and Oliver Ford Davies as Polonius.
The production also includes David Ajala (Reynaldo), Sam Alexander (Rosencrantz/Second Gravedigger), Ricky Champ (Lucianus) Ewen Cummins (Barnardo), Robert Curtis (Francisco), Tom Davey (Guildenstern), Peter De Jersey (Horatio), Samuel Dutton (Lord), Ryan Gage (Osric), Mariah Gale (Ophelia), Mark Hadfield (Gravedigger), Jim Hooper (Priest), Keith Osborn (Marcellus), Roderick Smith (Lord and Captain), Andrea Harris (Lady), Riann Steele (Lady), Zoe Thorne (Lady and Player) and John Woodvine (Player King).
The production originally opened at Stratford-upon-Avon's Courtyard Theatre Aug. 5, following previews from July 24, and ran in repertory to Nov. 15.
The entire run to Jan. 10, 2009, is sold out. To inquire about returns, contact the box office at 0844 482 5135. For further details visit www.rsc.org.uk.