The David Tennant Treat 4 Today is an extract from an article of David Tennant discussing playing Romeo in The RSC production of Romeo And Juliet which was performed at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and at the Barbican Theatre in London in 2000.
David said about his role:
"I always wanted to play Romeo. I thought it was a great part full of very recognizable emotions and motivations, with a vibrant youthful energy and sense of poetry with which anyone who has ever been a self-dramatising adolescent can identify. It is suffused with the robust certainty and cynicism of youth, but crowned with a winning and rather beautiful open-heartedness. And it's a great story brilliantly told, full of passion, wit, politics, intrigue, life and death, and topped off with lashings of sex and violence. And we had a great director at the helm in the shape of Michael Boyd, whose work I had been thrilled by for years at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow and more recently at the RSC itself. His productions had always seemed to me to have the power to make the theatre a truly magical place where things happen that could only happen in theatre, so that theatre isn't the poor relation of the feature-film but a genuine living art form specific to itself and nothing else. I'd always been desperately keen to work with Michael and to do it with this play was a dream come true.
And I was running out of time. There is no explicit reference in the text to how old Romeo is, but he is, undeniably, a young man. I didn't have very many years left. I'd always said to myself that it was a part I would have to do before my thirtieth birthday or not at all. Actors older than that have played the part, of course, and I don't doubt that they've done it very well, but I wanted to set myself a deadline. (There are, after all, few more tragic sights than a balding, middle-aged actor, corsetting in his paunch and inelegantly bounding across the stage as an ageing juvenile!) So, at twenty-eight (I would be twenty-nine before the show opened) it was now or never.
And I suppose that playing Romeo had always represented to me the first rung on a ladder that every great classical actor had climbed before ascending to Hamlet, Iago, Macbeth, and so on, finally culminating in a great, definitive King Lear before toppling over and retiring to an old actors' home and telling ribald anecdotes into a great, plummy old age. Not that I am, for a second, categorising myself as a 'great classical axtor', or even aspiring to such term, but the opportunity to follow a path through these famous parts in the wake of actors like Irving, Olivier, Gielgud and others seemed thrilling, and something that, ever since drama school, I've dreamed of doing. This is sort of egocentric thought-process that is not entirely helpful to an actor when it comes to actually approaching a role, and I'm not particularly proud to admit to it now, but I can't deny that it was a part (only a relatively small part, but an important one nevertheless) of what made me say yes to the RSC and to begin to find my own way through the sea of received notions of what the part meant to everyone who was so keen to give me their opinion."