Toby Stephens is notably remembered from James Bond’s last adventure Die Another Day, in which he played Bond baddie Gustav Graves against Pierce Brosnsn’s James Bond.
Now after nine years away from the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) Toby Stephens, 35, is returning there to preform Hamlet. He last appeared with the RSC in 1994/5 in the title role of Coriolanus directed by David Thacker for which he won the Ian Charleson award.
Toby Stephens as Hamlet
A play by William Shakespeare
Directed by Michael Boyd
July 9 – October 2, 2004
Stratford’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Warwickshire, CV37 6BB
When the play starts this Friday, Toby Stephens will have been rehearsing for 12 weeks prior. He is working together with the artistic director, Michael Boyd to perfect the play as a whole and not just focus on the troubled prince. The action has been moved forward slightly to the Jacobean era, when revenge plays were in their element, and Stephens is trying to create a Hamlet free of 20th century emotional baggage. Boyd chose Stephens because he knew he could be a convincing avenger.
“I think the play tends to be a showpiece for one actor and often the production is not very good but there’s an interesting performance going on in the middle – this is a much more solid entity.
Hamlet, to a certain extent, is a deconstruction of the revenge play. Shakespeare sets out a revenge plot but puts you in the mind of the revenger, the audience follows what is going on in his head, which is something not done before or since.
Hamlet is less of a retiring academic incapable of revenging his father and more the revenger who has to deal with various moral issues and problems – how do you kill a king without dying yourself?
He has to deal with just having seen his father’s ghost come back from purgatory, suffering for his sins and he’s wondering what’s going to happen to him when he dies.
It is a dark play but there is humour in it too. I think it’s got bogged down in a lot of psychology, it’s become Freudian, layered with modernity. Shakespeare wrote in a time when there was no conception of that.”
Hamlet is the highlight of Toby Stephen’s career so far and he cannot stop talking about it.
“It’s a dream for an actor to be asked to play the part but it’s very hard work – the guy never stops talking. There is a lot to do and a lot to learn and get right. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s such a seminal part and it’s something I’m immensely proud to be doing. Most actors never get the chance to play it, I’m very aware I’m amongst a privileged group of people.”
You can purchase tickets to see Toby Stephens as Hamlet from the RSC…
On-line: RSC Box Office
By telephone: 0870 609 1110. (9am-8pm, Mon-Sat)
In person: At the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (address above) from 9:30am-8pm, Mon-Sat (6pm on non-performance days)