Ian McKellen reprises Hamlet for new film version

<span>Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Ian McKellen has reprised the role of Hamlet for a new film version made at Theatre Royal Windsor, where he played Shakespeare’s tragic prince in 2021. It will be shown in UK cinemas for one night, on 27 February.

Described by distributor Kaleidoscope as a “uniquely modern spin” on Shakespeare’s tragedy, the film uses nearly every room of the theatre and transforms it into Elsinore castle, “from basement dungeon to rooftop battlement”.

The film reunites McKellen with cast members from that age- and gender-blind production including Frances Barber, Jonathan Hyde, Jenny Seagrove and Francesca Annis. It also stars Steven Berkoff, who departed after the first preview performances amid claims of bitter disagreement and tensions with actor Emmanuella Cole, who also left. Berkoff originally played Polonius in the stage version.

Hamlet, in which McKellen delivered speeches both on an exercise bike and at the barber’s, received mixed reviews from critics when it opened in the summer of 2021. It was the first time McKellen had taken on the part since he played it in a UK and European tour in 1971 with Prospect Theatre Company. He then played the character again at the Edinburgh festival in 2022, sharing the role with Danish dancer Johan Christensen in a production directed and choreographed by Peter Schaufuss.

The new film is directed by Sean Mathias, who staged Hamlet and The Cherry Orchard with the same company of actors in Windsor. The screening will include a recorded Q&A with McKellen and Mathias. The film is produced by Bill Kenwright, who died in October.