Kenneth Branagh to direct Tom Hiddleston in Hamlet


Tom Hiddleston (right) will star in a new production of Hamlet, directed by Kenneth Branagh.
Tom Hiddleston (right) will star in a new production of Hamlet, directed by Kenneth Branagh. PHOTOS: AFP, REUTERS

LONDON (NYTimes) - Tom Hiddleston will star in a new production of Hamlet, directed by Kenneth Branagh, opening on Sept 1 and running just three weeks.

But don't get out your credit card yet. The production, announced on Tuesday, is a fundraising venture for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, the prestigious theatre academy that Branagh and Hiddleston (as well as many other household names) both attended.

Tickets for the three-week run, in the academy's 160-seat Jerwood Vanbrugh Theatre, are only available through a ballot system, which opened on Tuesday. There will be no day tickets or returns available, and no press seats allocated.

In a statement quoted in The Stage, a London theatre publication, Hiddleston said the role offered "almost limitless possibilities for interpretation". He added that he and Branagh - who directed Hiddleston as Loki in the 2011 Disney-Marvel blockbuster Thor - had long discussed working on Hamlet together. "Now felt like the right time, at the right place," he said.

Hamlet, a coproduction by RADA and Branagh's theatre company, will feature actors from both organisations, including actress and playwright Lolita Chakrabarti as Gertrude and Kathryn Wilder as Ophelia, with the backstage crew drawn from the academy's technical theatre course.

Branagh, who has been the president of RADA since 2015, and can currently be seen in Dunkirk, said in an interview with The Stage that this Hamlet would be a stripped-down production, with an edited text and a pared-back set. He also suggested something of his approach.

"Hamlet always speaks loudly to the world," he said. "And at present, it roars. It is a play that talks of power grabs and demagogues."

He added: "It's about personality and theatricality, and the tools of politics and performance. This is reflected in the media every day. Shakespeare just happened to write about it 500 years ago."

The money raised from the three-week run will go toward the academy's Attenborough Campaign, which has a target of £20 million (S$35.9 million) to create on-site accommodation for students and provide them with increased financial support. RADA, in the Bloomsbury area of London, also intends to build a new library and convert an existing building into a 250-seat theatre.

"The performing arts exist to bring people together, not to break or keep them apart," Hiddleston said, perhaps addressing the often-repeated criticism that top British actors tend to come from privileged backgrounds. "We need to keep the doors open for everyone."