As the company's first female director, Buzz Goodbody created an original modern-dress Hamlet at The Other Place, featuring Ben Kingsley in the title role.

Man in tweed overcoat stands looking into grave with 'Hamlet' poster of himself behind
Poster for Hamlet 1975
Poster by RSC © RSC Browse and license our images


The tin shack that became The Other Place in 1974 evolved from an experimental studio theatre under director Michel Saint-Denis to a store and rehearsal space. The facilities for the company and the audience were modest compared with today’s creative hub that is the modern incarnation of The Other Place.


"A young talent of great potential", Obituary, The Times, 15 April 1975

Mary Ann 'Buzz' Goodbody was both the RSC's first female director and the first woman to direct Hamlet for the company. She was only 28 years old when she died in 1975, several days before the first performance of Hamlet at The Other Place in Stratford-upon-Avon.

The year before she had been appointed Artistic Director of The Other Place, where her originality and creativity flourished, culminating in the 1975 production of Hamlet.


Goodbody's modern-dress production was perfectly suited to the small intimate studio space of The Other Place, which enhanced the play’s claustrophobia.

The cast of 13 actors performed 23 roles, sometimes popping up among the audience, who were always close to the action.

A menacing tone was set in the first scene as the soldiers flashed their torches in the darkness to locate the ghost.

Five RSC staff working outside a corrugated steel structure (The Other Place) one summer in  the 1970s
Staff including Leo Leibovici (first left), Hamlet's lighting designer, outside The Other Place in 1975
Photographer unrecorded © RSC Browse and license our images
Ben Kingsley sits back to front on a chair during Hamlet rehearsals in 1975


Ben Kingsley was cast as Hamlet in the production, having joined the Company in 1967. The award-winning actor and RSC Associate Artist was knighted for his services to the film industry in 2002.

During the run of Hamlet, one audience member was so impressed by Kingsley's performance that he told his father, director Richard Attenborough, not to cast the title role in the film Gandhi until he had seen the actor. This was a turning point in Kingsley's career as he acknowledged in an interview with the New York Times in 1982: Ben Kingsley’s Journey From Hamlet to Gandhi.




Performing in The Other Place, Ben Kingsley really appreciated Hamlet’s advice to the players in Act 3 Scene 2 “to hold, as ‘twere the mirror up to nature”. He noted that the company “learned to brave a much closer level of scrutiny from our audience, moving from ‘us and them’ to ‘you and I’.” ('Flashback: A Pictorial History 1879-1979, one hundred years of Stratford-upon-Avon and the Royal Shakespeare Company', compiled by Micheline Steinberg, RSC Publications, 1979.)

The proximity of the performer and audience enhanced the drama, so when Kingsley tore up the love letters to Ophelia, he threw them at the spectators. Kingsley epitomised the style of the production with his energetic, realistic and truthful performance.




Chris Dyer designed the set and costumes for the production. He made the most of the space available by creating a set of moveable white screens, raised platforms and a bridge leading to the back of the auditorium, which echoed the Kabuki style (traditional Japanese theatre).

During his research for Hamlet, Dyer discovered a photograph showing a 1910 Japanese production of the play in the modern-dress of the time. He also found a coat that he thought would be perfect for Hamlet but when he checked the name tab, it had already been worn by two previous Hamlets. This made him realise that there is nothing new when it comes to design.


Chris Dyer enjoys designing for small theatres, where the actors and the audience share the space. His design for Buzz Goodbody’s Hamlet in The Other Place exploited this proximity to the audience.

Dyer prefers to design both the costumes and the set because it helps his overall concept of the production and enables him to be more closely involved with the actors during the rehearsals.


See Chris Dyer interviewed about his work in the Designing Shakespeare Collection (Arts and Humanities Data Service).


Set design by Chris Dyer for Hamlet 1875 consisting of large white wall panels on a platform with stairs
Chris Dyer's set design for Hamlet 1975
Designed by Chris Dyer © Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Browse and license our images

Focus on the closet scene (Act 3 Scene 4)

One of the most claustrophobic scenes in the production was when Hamlet (Ben Kingsley) confronted Gertrude (Mikel Lambert) in her chamber. Chris Dyer’s screens were used to great effect when Hamlet accidentally killed the concealed Polonius.

This visceral scene also included Hamlet slapping Gertrude to bring her to her senses.




Gareth Armstrong – Francisco, Rosencrantz, Priest

George Baker – Claudius

Charles Dance – Reynaldo, Player 3, Fortinbras

Griffith Jones – Ghost

Ben Kingsley – Hamlet

Mikel Lambert – Gertrude

Sidney Livingstone – Horatio

Yvonne Nicholson - Ophelia

Bob Peck – Player 1, Norwegian Captain, Gravedigger 1

Christopher Saul – Barnado, English Ambassador, Guildenstern

Andre Van Gyseghem – Polonius

Stuart Wilson – Laertes, Player 4

Terence Wilton – Marcellus, Player 2, Marcellus, Osric




Director – Buzz Goodbody

Designer - Chris Dyer

Lighting designer –Leo Leibovici

The RSC's archive is held at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. You can visit the Library and Archives there to look at production related information, including photos, videos of shows and stage management documents:

Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive homepage

You can search the RSC catalogue here: 

RSC performance database 


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