Page last updated at 01:37 GMT, Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Human skull abandoned by Hamlet

David Tennant with skull
David Tennant rehearsing with a replica skull

A human skull will no longer appear in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Hamlet as it may distract the audience, the company has said.

The skull of concert pianist and Holocaust survivor Andre Tchaikowsky has appeared in the Stratford production, starring David Tennant.

It was his dying wish to have his skull used in Hamlet and he bequeathed it to the RSC.

But the company says a fake skull will be used when it transfers to London.

Tennant was the first actor to use Mr Tchaikowsky's skull during Hamlet's famous grave-digger scene.

Audiences in Stratford were unaware the skull belonged to the Oxford pianist, but the secret was revealed by Tennant.

The RSC told Channel 4 News that now the secret was out, it would be "too distracting for the audience" if the skull was used.

Mr Tchaikowsky was devoted to Shakespeare, often visiting Stratford-Upon-Avon to see performances of his plays.

He died of cancer at the age of 46 in 1982 and donated his organs to medical research, with the exception of his skull.

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