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What to expect from 3 starry Shakespeare plays: Martin Freeman, Maxine Peake and Benedict Cumberbatch

David Garrick as Richard III in 1745

It's rare not to have a least one star turn taking on one of Shakespeare's famous leads but there are already three schedule for the next 15 months to get excited about. So what do we know so far?

Martin Freeman is first up as Richard III directed by Jamie Lloyd at the Trafalgar Studios. Lloyd brought us James McAvoy in Macbeth last year and it was a contemporary, frenetic, brutal and physical production. In the same season he cast Simon Russell Beale and John Simm in the dark and sinister black comedy The Hothouse.

Freeman said in an interview on Radio 4's Front Row (17 April, podcast available via iTunes) before rehearsals began, that he hoped this production would follow in the footsteps of Macbeth and The Hothouse in being fast and bloody.

He said he'd received Lloyd's "cut of the play" and commented: "I think he wants a really exciting night at the theatre, he doesn't want a laborious, professorial penance."

Rehearsals are now underway for the production, which opens in July, and early whispers suggest a tightly-trimmed script.

Second up is Maxine Peake playing Hamlet at the Royal Exchange in Manchester which is described as being a "radical re-imagining". My first question would be whether this is going to be contrived gender swap aka the all female Julius Caesar at the Donmar, which was set in a women's prison to explain the absence of men, or whether the sex of the protagonist will be incidental.

Again in an interview on Front Row prior to to starting rehearsal Peake has hinted that it will be the latter, she will be playing Hamlet as Hamlet. She already has experience of the character but from the perspective of Ophelia whom she played opposite Christopher Eccleston's Hamlet.

And then there is Benedict Cumberbatch's Hamlet at the Barbican. It is still more than a year away and tickets are yet to go on sale but already there is plenty of speculation as to what it will be like or rather what fans hope it will be like. Probably the most sage comments come from Professor Fangirl's Bordello of Learning on Tumblr and here is short extract from her post:

There’s no predicting what performance decisions he’ll make, but I imagine that his will be the smoldering, cerebral, angry Hamlet. The Hamlet who’s been raised all his life in preparation for kingship, and then finds that as he nears the end of his post-graduate education (so to speak), in his thirties and impatient for the crown (no matter how he loves his father), that the throne’s been snatched out from under him.

She also, quite rightly, says that his won't be the best Hamlet because there is no 'best' just different interpretations. It doesn't mean we can't sit back and luxuriate in the speculation, anticipation and rumours for the next 15 months. That is all part of the enjoyment.

Lyndsey Turner who will direct Cumberbatch has an back catalogue of work that is primarily contemporary including Posh, Our Private Life and Chimerica - for the latter she picked up an Olivier. For that reason, I can't quite imagine her going down the road of traditional dress. And I'm sure she'll want to stamp her mark and set our her Hamlet as something that is memorable not just for having Sherlock in the lead.