Hamlet's skullduggery

By Phil Plait | November 26, 2008 11:00 am

Well, I’m not sure what to make of this. A man donated his body to science, with the proviso that his skull be used in the Royal Shakespeare Company in a performance.

For years, no actor could stomach using the guy’s cranium… until one man stepped forward.

Who?

Yeah, Who. David Tennant, that Who. When he was alassing poor Yorick in his recent performance as Hamlet, the man of infinite jest was actually Polish pianist André Tchaíkowsky.

David Tennant as Hamlet

So props to Tennant for going through with it. Wait, it wasn’t a prop, it was real. Sorry about that, jokes like that are an occipitational hazard. It’s only temporal, since if I do it too much I’ll be a parietal on my own blog! I’m a fontanelle of such things, but such a frontal assault on my readers would only stem their reading habits.

So if you don’t like it, suture self.

I can’t do a hat tip, since, as Ophelia said, Hamlet had "no hat upon his head." So instead I’ll just say thanks to Rebecca, and note that when she sent me the link, she said that she’s considering donating her body to Tennant as well.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, SciFi, TV/Movies

Comments (44)

  1. Kendall

    Hee hee!!! Ha Ha!!! Stop it!!! Hee!!!

  2. Colin J

    “Hear that? That’s my skull!”

  3. Gavin Flower

    I assume Rebecca was talking about her body well before death???

  4. Hey, I recognize that guy! And Tennant, too!

  5. Hahaha, I’m not even sure where to start!

  6. John Powell
  7. Navneeth

    Do they plan to use it at the gLOBE theatre?

  8. So many puns makes MY skull want to collapse…

  9. I’m surprised that even though Tennant wanted to use the skull, its use wasn’t nixed by other members of the theatre company. Actors and directors are very superstitious people and I’m sure the use of a real skull in the play is very unnerving to some of the actors.

    On a side note, the superstitions almost always come true, oddly enough. When actors see something that violates what I’ve jokingly called the theatre’s chi (the arrangement of good luck charms and knick knacks that makes up an average backstage area, and the pre-show ritual of group meditation, prayer, avoidances of words or phrases, etc.) the more superstitious of those actors become convinced that something bad will happen and the show will suck, then they get tense and screw up a bunch of stuff making their “prophesy” of failure come true.

    So I’m really surprised they’re letting him use the skull. I bet there are one or two actors that are screwing up their performances over the knowledge that there’s a real human skull being used in the show.

    And, John, if he was really method acting, the tears would be real: He’d kill one of his friends before every show and use their head in Act V every night. The sorrow must be real. C’mon, Tennant! Show us the tears!

  10. I find it interesting that the scene is supposed to be comic relief.

  11. Ed Myers

    The Seventh Layer of Hell is reserved for traitors, betrayers, and bad pun makers.

  12. @The Chemist

    Well, Yorick was a clown. If they put a rainbow-coloured afro wig on the skull, would that help?

  13. dannyness

    Must also give respect to the actor who played the gravedigger. He probably had to handle the skull, too.

  14. RJ

    Just goes to show how awesome Tennant to throw out the superstitions and use the skull. Major kudos to the good Doctor.

  15. Bobby Thomas

    You’re killin’ me!

  16. Mike

    I just watched an early episode of the Canadian comedy/drama “Slings and Arrows” where a recently deceased director makes the same request of his skull.

    Back to skullking in the background.

  17. The intersection of science-geekdom and theatre-geekdom. I might have a geek-gasm.

  18. writzer

    That’s just great! Phil’s kicked off the fourth Punic War.

  19. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    I’m surprised that you can watch Tennant observe those round orbits and not comment on kinship between actors and astronomers. But I shouldn’t complain as long as you make no bones about the stage.

  20. jgrewe

    Several years ago, Del Close, a legend in the Chicago theater and improv scene, left his skull to the Goodman Theater company for use in future productions of Hamlet. As far as I know, they haven’t done the play yet, but if they need him, they’ve got him.

  21. Dallas

    I have a skull collection, and when we had to do Hamlet scenes in my english class senior year of high school I brought my real Chinese human skull and used it.

    No one was really surprised by it though, since I always talked about skulls all the time; they all thought it was pretty typical of me.

  22. Chris

    Well, I think it was a generous donation and not at all bone-headed.

    I do find this posting to be quite humerous!

  23. Gives new meaning to the old joke “I’m donating my body to science fiction”!

  24. Ed Myers Says: “The Seventh Layer of Hell is reserved for traitors, betrayers, and bad pun makers.”

    Is that the makers of bad puns or pun makers who are bad? The BP? Are there good pun makers? Are there good puns? Does anyone care?

    – Jack

  25. Ihab Hussein

    I’m surprised that even though Tennant wanted to use the skull, its use wasn’t nixed by other members of the theatre company. Actors and directors are very superstitious people and I’m sure the use of a real skull in the play is very unnerving to some of the actors.

    Don’t worry. Nothing should go wrong as long as nobody mentions
    the scottish play.

  26. endeavour

    In response to Reed Braden’s comment “I’m really surprised they’re letting him use the skull. I bet there are one or two actors that are screwing up their performances over the knowledge that there’s a real human skull being used in the show” I can only say that I’ve seen the Tennant Hamlet (which is an awesome production: both Tennant and Patrick Stewart are very impressive) and I couldn’t detect any sign of anyone on stage being nervous or flubbing their performances because of the skull.

  27. Paul M.
  28. Kimpatsu

    Whaddaya mean, “he has no hat upon his head”?
    The Doctor is clearly wearing a beanie hat in the photo.

    To make sense of all Phil’s bad puns, you have to bone up on anatomy.
    Ha ha ha!

  29. Ragutis

    A) That’s awesome, and good on DT for putting aside the heebie-jeebies to fulfill a man’s last wish.

    B) Bugger… now I have to think of something new and cool to request be done with my leftovers.

  30. That’s really awesome. Though, I’ve got to admit, a part of me wonders why it was ever a problem. I mean, it’s just a skull. I’d think it’d be incredibly cool to be able to use a real one in a performance!

    Then again, I’ve handled animal skulls (humans included) in various states of preservation across probably every major order, so I’d not have a second thought about it. A skull’s a skull. *Shrugs*.

  31. I wonder if he got a credit in the program. When I read what this composer did, I thought, “Wow, that is a great idea! I should sign up to give my skull to my local theatre company.” They do Shakespeare in the Park every year, well, not this year because of the flood. :( One comedy/romance, one tragedy/history. A good use of one’s remains.

  32. oh, wow. that was good.

  33. Law Mom

    There are no small parts, only small actors. And small parts of actors.

  34. I think I’ll donate my heart for use in a gory trick by Penn & Teller. Then again I am an organ donor so maybe my heart should go to a faith healer as none of them have one.
    P&T can make due with my skull or perhaps a hand (they can work a “middle finger” routine).

  35. Richard Wymarc

    So, did André get billing? He certainly nailed his lines. Of course, acting is in his bones…

  36. Maura

    One of the cool things about it is that in the scene Hamlet suddenly realizes that this inanimate object has a direct connection to the life of a real, specific person he knew. Now, after the production is over, we’re finding out that the inanimate prop is actually part of a real, specific person to whom the RSC was really important. It’s kind of poetic.

    The other cool thing about it that it provides another excuse to run a picture of David Tennant.

  37. Troy

    Just gotta say, that’s hilarious. Glad he finally got his wish. Now if only Charley Tuna can get his and be beheaded, gutted, and canned…

  38. IBY

    Someday, the puns will cause a meltdown in my cerebral cortex.

  39. Kimpatsu

    @IBY:
    That’s because you are a PUNY mortal.
    Now, PUNt a joke back at me…

  40. Gary Ansorge

    David Tennant:(actual misquote) “What do you mean, it’s a REAL skull,,,?”

    GAry 7

  41. Paul A.

    “Yorick couldn’t make it, Hello I’m André.”

    Gobble, gobble.

  42. I’d like to point out that I actually want to donate very specific body parts to David Tennant. That is all, thank you.

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