Alas poor Tchaikowsky...
mchawk | November 26, 2008 at 02:14 pmby
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David Tennant is currently playing the titular role of Hamlet for The Royal Shakespeare Company, and when the production transfers from Stratford upon Avon to London's Novello Theatre it will bring with it a most unusual prop.
The RSC has revealed that the skull of Yorick, held aloft in that famous Act Five scene, once belonged to the Polish concert pianist, composer and ardent fan of Shakespeare, Andre Tchaikowsky, who died of cancer back in 1982. He bequeathed his body to medical science, but insisted that his skull go to the RSC.
In his will he wrote that his skull "shall be offered by the institution receiving my body to the Royal Shakespeare Company for use in theatrical performance".
Since then it has only been used in rehearsals because no actor felt comfortable enough using it on stage in front of an audience.
In 1989 actor Mark Rylance rehearsed with it for a while, but in the end it was decided using the skull for performances would not be appropriate. Instead, Rylance used a cast of Mr Tchaikowsky's skull, and the real thing was returned to the props department, where it resided in a tissue-lined box for almost 20 years.
It remained there until Greg Doran, who directed Tennant in Hamlet, retrieved it for his production. "It was sort of a little shock tactic. Though, of course, to some extent that wears off and it's just Andre, in his box," He added that he did not want the story to get out before Hamlet opened. He said: "I thought it would topple the play and it would be all about David acting with a real skull."
RSC curator David Howells: "We hope Mr Tchaikowsky would have been pleased that his final wish has been realised in Gregory Doran's acclaimed production of Hamlet."
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