As recording begins on Alan Bennett’s contemporary reworking of Hamlet as a farcical tale set in the eponymous south London suburb of Denmark Hill, it has been announced that Bryony Hannah — best known for the role of Cynthia Miller in Call the Midwife — will take the lead role of 15-year-old Harriet, a girl wrestling with an essay on Hamlet and Shakespeare’s view of the family.
Hustle star Robert Glenister is set for the role of George, whose first act in the play is to give Frank — played by acting stalwart Geoffrey Palmer — his last drink. The parallels with Claudius pouring poison in King Hamlet’s ear are apparent and from this moment on, the story becomes strangely familiar as in different guises come Gertrude, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and even the travelling players.
Samuel Barnett, the star of Twenty Twelve who obviously favours working with Alan Bennett as he featured in the stage, radio and film versions of The History Boys, has been repayed the favour with the princely role of Charles – he’s synonymous with the character of Hamlet.
Royal Shakespeare Company associate artist Penny Downie plays Gwen, who is comparable to Shakespeare’s Gertrude, a role that Downie played opposite David Tennant and Patrick Stewart in RSC’s 2008 production of Hamlet.
The cast is rounded out by Malcolm Sinclair — who has made a decent radio career out of portraying Noël Coward (most recently in last month’s Mr Bridger’s Orphans) — Stephen Critchlow, who is currently on stage in the West End production of The 39 Steps, and Cathy Sara who has appeared in Downton Abbey on TV and in The Archers on radio.
Alan Bennett will take the role of narrator.