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August 2012

From minor stage part to major star - the provincial Hamlet that proved a breeding ground

A long time before I started obsessively going to the theatre, I saw the odd production as an English Lit student in Liverpool. My first ever stage Hamlet was at the lovely Theatr Clwyd just over the Mersey in Mold. It was towards the end of 1991 or early 1992.

The thing I remember most about it - apart from one of the costumes catching fire on a candle - was that Gertrude was played by a man, Martin McKellan, and his performance was so affecting I was moved to tears.

Well I certainly haven't seen his name crop up since and neither have I the actor who played Hamlet, Geraint Wyn Davies. But tracing the names further down the cast list, the Bernardos, Francisco's and Osrics and low and behold I find none other than Toby Jones, Rhys Ifans and Jack Davenport.

The latter was making his stage debut at the age of 18  having been discovered by the director performing on a summer drama course. And to think I've just been watching him in the NBC TV series Smash as single-minded and unfeeling musical producer Derek Wills?

Rhys Ifans is of course legend and seen most recently playing the baddie in the blockbuster Spiderman movie, as is Toby Jones who's become a stalwart of TV and film. 

Just goes to show you should always keep an eye out for the minor players as you never know who's fledgling career you might be experiencing. Anyone else got a good early spot, even if you didn't realise at the time?

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What did the critics make of Philadelphia, Here I Come

Rory%20Keenan%20shrunk%20I saw the very first performance last week and said then that Philadelphia, Here I Come at the Donmar could only get better and better.  And it seems that I was right as the critics have lapped it up.

From the five reviews gathered by What's On Stage, after yesterday's press night, it collected two five star reviews with the rest being four stars.

Libby Purves in The Times said: "Rendered with immaculate delicacy, Lyndsey Turner’s production was for me the most moving Donmar evening since King Lear in 2010."

It is certainly my favourite Donmar production this year, just narrowly pipping The Physicists, and I may even see if I can bag another ticket just to see how the actors are relaxing into the run.

Production photo: Johan Persson