The show begins an extended residency at the playhouse, with more of the company's recent Stratford season — as well as a new production of Hecuba starring Vanessa Redgrave — to follow. It's the RSC's first central London residency since they left the Barbican under previous artistic director Adrian Noble (a season at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm proved to be too far away from Theatreland for audiences to follow).
Toby Stephens plays the downcast Dane, his first appearance with the company since his award-winning turn as Coriolanus in 1994. In the meantime, Stephens (son of famous thespians Maggie Smith and the late Robert Stephens) has regularly appeared in the West End — productions have included Racine’s Phedre, Britannicus alongside Diana Rigg, Simon Gray’s Japes and The Royal Family with Judi Dench. Screen work has included the James Bond villain Gustav Graves in “Die Another Day” and Lensky opposite Ralph Fiennes’ “Onegin.”
Greg Hicks, currently the RSC’s resident Macbeth (which will take its turn at the Albery beginning Feb. 10), plays Claudius, with Sian Thomas as Gertrude. The cast also includes Anita Booth, Edward Clarke, Richard Cordery, Ian Drysdale, Jonathan Forbes, Meg Fraser, Trystan Gravelle, John Killoran, John Mackay, Neil Madden, Forbes Masson, Sion Tudor Owen, Jessica Tomchak, Gideon Turner and Clive Wood.
It's RSC chief Michael Boyd's first production since taking over the company. Tom Piper designs, with lighting by Vince Herbert, sound by Andrea Cox, music by John Woolf and fights directed by Terry King.
London is facing a glut of Hamlets at the moment. The Japanese director Ninagawa recently brought his Dane — Michael Maloney — to the Barbican. Before that, Trevor Nunn had Ben Whishaw holding the skull at the Old Vic. And there's talk of both Jude Law and Ralph Fiennes (again) doing the play. For more information of the RSC production, call 0870 060 6621.