The Daily Telegraph

To see, or not to see

Rada grad­u­ates ap­pear along­side Golden Globe win­ner in lim­ited run of char­ity pro­duc­tion

- By Anita Singh Arts And En­ter­tain­ment Ed­i­tor Entertainment · Arts · Theatre · Theatre & Ballet · Kenneth Branagh · West End theatre · Royal Academy · Denmark · Benedict Cumberbatch · London · Tom Hiddleston · Royal Academy of Dramatic Art · National Youth Theatre

It is one of the stage events of the year – Tom Hid­dle­ston star­ring in Sir Ken­neth Branagh’s pro­duc­tion of Ham­let. How­ever, only a select group of the­atre-go­ers will see the per­for­mance, as tick­ets in the tiny Rada the­atre were sold via a lottery weeks ago

PLENTY of es­tab­lished ac­tors would give their right arm to ap­pear along­side Tom Hid­dle­ston in the hottest ticket of the year, Ham­let show­ing in the West End.

Last night, the op­por­tu­nity fell to two drama school grad­u­ates. Eleanor de Ro­han and Ir­fan Shamji were plucked from their final year at the Royal Academy of Dra­matic Art (Rada) by Sir Ken­neth Branagh, the direc­tor.

The sell-out pro­duc­tion opened at Rada’s Jer­wood Van­brugh the­atre, a space with just 160 seats, for the first night of its three-week run.

De Ro­han plays Guil­dastern, a fe­male ver­sion of Ham­let’s child­hood friend, Guilden­stern, while Shamji plays Laertes. They also ap­pear in other, smaller roles as the play has a cast of just 10 ac­tors. “They only grad­u­ated in July. This is their first job,” said Ed­ward Kemp, Rada direc­tor. “Ken au­di­tioned all of our third year, and from there he se­lected the ones he would like to work with.”

Shamji, a Lon­doner, won a prize for his fight skills dur­ing his time at the drama school – handy for his fenc­ing scenes with Hid­dle­ston. De Ro­han was a mem­ber of the Na­tional Youth The­atre be­fore win­ning a place to study a BA in act­ing. Hid­dle­ston and Branagh are both Rada grad­u­ates, and agreed to stage the short run as a fundraiser for the in­sti­tu­tion.

The mod­ern-dress pro­duc­tion is set in Den­mark and favours the “Ham­let in a hoodie” aes­thetic last seen when Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch played the role two years ago at the Bar­bican.

Cum­ber­batch’s per­for­mance in 2015 was dis­rupted by fans film­ing him on mo­bile phones, forc­ing him to make a public ap­peal for them to stop the “mor­ti­fy­ing” be­hav­iour.

Kemp said he did not ex­pect to have the same prob­lem with Hid­dle­ston, not least be­cause the space is so in­ti­mate. Tick­ets were dis­trib­uted via a lottery over the space of five days.

“There are only 160 peo­ple. No­body is fur­ther than 12 feet from the stage, and if you’re in the front row you’re right up in the ac­tion,” he said.

“What’s ex­cit­ing about the lottery, one of the things that Tom is very ex­cited about, is that some­times with these hotly an­tic­i­pated pro­duc­tions you get a par­tic­u­lar kind of per­son who can get on the in­ter­net when tick­ets are re­leased.

“But this had a five-day win­dow and the tick­ethold­ers were picked at ran­dom. Al­most more than any other show in Lon­don, we have no idea who will be turn­ing up. There will ob­vi­ously be hard­core Hid­dle­ston fans but also an aw­ful lot of peo­ple there to see Ham­let.”

Tick­ethold­ers must pick up their tick­ets in the hour be­fore the per­for­mance be­gins, one of sev­eral moves de­signed to thwart touts.

Kemp de­scribed it as a “thrilling” pro­duc­tion and “a play about grief ”. He said: “It’s mod­ern dress. There are some hood­ies. There are suits.”

Money raised from the per­for­mance will fund sev­eral projects, in­clud­ing a li­brary, the­atre and ac­com­mo­da­tion for first year students.

While the ma­jor­ity of Rada students re­ceive fi­nan­cial sup­port, there have been com­plaints that work­ing-class tal­ent is be­ing priced out of the act­ing pro­fes­sion. Hid­dle­ston’s name is fre­quently in­cluded in lists of public school ac­tors dom­i­nat­ing the Bri­tish act­ing scene.

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 ??  ?? Only 160 peo­ple a night were lucky enough to get tick­ets for Hid­dle­ston’s per­for­mance
Only 160 peo­ple a night were lucky enough to get tick­ets for Hid­dle­ston’s per­for­mance

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