In a Royal Shakespeare Company press statement, the RSC said that Tennant is suffering from a prolapsed disc and will undergo surgery Dec. 11.
Understudy Edward Bennett, who usually plays Laertes, will continue to perform the title role, with Tom Davey taking on the role of Laertes, Ricky Champ as Guildenstern and Robert Curtis as Lucianus.
In a press statement, Tennant said, "It is hugely disappointing for me to have to miss these performances. My back problem has progressed to the point where it is currently impossible for me to carry on without surgery. I want to get back onstage as quickly as possible and I am very grateful to Ed who has courageously got to grips with the role but in a much shorter time. It's a fantastic achievement."
RSC artistic director Michael Boyd added, "We all wish David a speedy recovery and it is an indication of the RSC's investment in understudies that Ed Bennett can take over Shakespeare's largest role at such short notice. As an ensemble company, we feel it is important to go ahead with the run at the Novello Theatre and I am proud of the way Ed, the understudies, Patrick Stewart, Penny Downie and the rest of the company have risen to this challenge, getting a great reaction from audiences and critics alike." Boyd had previously commented on the decision to go ahead with the press performance as scheduled on Dec. 9, "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."
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." 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), Ewen Cummins (Barnardo), Robert Curtis (Francisco), 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. As is usual practice, the RSC and Delfont Mackintosh Theatres will not be issuing refunds because the Company has a fully rehearsed understudy policy and performances will continue as scheduled. The Company is able to offer exchanges, subject to availability, for other RSC London performances during this season at the Novello Theatre. Patrons are also able to offer tickets for resale subject to the usual terms and conditions; however, re-sales are not guaranteed.
For further details contact the box office at 0844 482 5135 or visit www.rsc.org.uk.