Hamlet and Saint Joan: Notable Productions

By Anna Morton, Artistic Assistant

HAMLET

Hamlet and Ophelia by Charles A. Buchel, Folger Shakespeare Library.
Ghost and Hamlet by Johann Heinrich Ramberg, Folger Shakespeare Library.
Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet, with Yorick’s skull, photographed by James Lafayette c. 1885-1900.

Since Shakespeare first wrote Hamlet, it has been performed and interpreted with great frequency across the globe. Below is a select list of notable productions in the play’s long history.

1599-1601

William Shakespeare writes Hamlet for The Globe Theatre, of which he owned a share. The role of Hamlet is written for Richard Burbage, an actor in Shakespeare’s company the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

1603

A quarto version of Hamlet is published. Its title page notes that Hamlet has been performed “by his Highness Servants in the City of London, as also in the two universities of Cambridge and Oxford, and elsewhere,” but with no mention of specific performances.

1607

The earliest recorded performance of Hamlet takes place on the East India Company’s ship The Dragon, when it is anchored off the coast of Sierra Leon.

1619

Hamlet is performed for King James.

1637

Hamlet is performed for King Charles.

1740s-1776

Actor David Garrick performs the role of Hamlet multiple times throughout his career at Drury Lane and Covent Garden.

1796

Elizabeth Powell becomes the first woman to play Hamlet in London at Drury Lane Theatre.

1820

Sarah Bartley is the first woman to play Hamlet in America at New York’s Park Theater.

1911-1912

Constantin Stanislavsky and Edward Gordon Craig collaborate on a production of Hamlet at Moscow Art Theatre.

1937

Laurence Olivier plays Hamlet at the Old Vic in London. This production puts a Freudian, psychoanalytic spin on the play.

1964

John Gielgud directs a production of Hamlet in New York with Richard Burton in the title role.

1980

Richard Eyre directs a production of Hamlet at the Royal Court Theatre, with no actor in the role of the ghost. Instead, the ghost’s lines are given to Hamlet to suggest that King Hamlet’s ghost manifests itself in the possession of his son.

2004

Trevor Nunn directs a production at The Old Vic starring a 23-year-old Ben Whishaw as Hamlet.

2015

Zainab Jah becomes one of the first women of color to play Hamlet in a production at Philadelphia’s Wilma Theater.

2015

Benedict Cumberbatch stars in a production of Hamlet at the Barbican in London. The production is broadcast to audiences across the world by National Theatre Live.

Other well-known actors such as Jude Law, David Tennant, Derek Jacobi, Sarah Bernhardt, Kenneth Branagh, and Kevin Kline have played Hamlet onstage and in film.


SAINT JOAN

Joan of Arc by unknown artist, 1500
Joan of Arc at the coronation of Charles VII by Jean Auguste Dominque Ingres, oil on canvas, 1854, The Louvre.
Joan of Arc in Battle by Hermann Anton Stilke, oil on canvas, 1843, Hermitage Museum.

The title character of Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan is an exciting and challenging role for even the most talented of actresses. The role’s appeal—as well as the nuance, humor, and intelligence of the script—has made it a popular production/revival choice since its 1923 premiere. Below is a select list of notable productions in the play’s 93 year history.

December 28, 1923

Saint Joan premieres at the Garrick Theatre on Broadway starring Winifred Lenihan as Joan.

March 26, 1924

Saint Joan has its London premiere at the New Theatre. This production stars Sybil Thorndike, for whom George Bernard Shaw wrote the title role.

1924

Max Reinhardt directs a production of Saint Joan at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin, with Elisabeth Bergner in the role of Joan.

1936

The Malvern Theatre Festival produces a version of Saint Joan starring Wendy Hiller, who played many of Shaw’s leading ladies throughout her career.

1968

Lincoln Center, then known as Lincoln Center Repertory Theater, produces Saint Joan with Diana Sands playing Joan.

1984

Ronald Eyre directs Saint Joan at The National Theatre in London. Frances de la Tour stars as Joan.

2016-2017

Josie Rourke directs Saint Joan at the Donmar Warehouse in London. The production will be broadcast live across the world on February 17, 2017 by National Theatre Live.

Actresses Joan Plowright, Lynn Redgrave, Imelda Staunton, Imogen Stubbs, Anne-Marie Duff have also played Joan onstage.

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