Love a Good Play: Hamlet (Benedict Cumberbatch)

Barbican Theatre, Aug 6, 2015

The most anticipated production on a London stage. EVER. Sold out in record time. At the Barbican. With Benedict Cumberbatch.


The place is literally buzzing. There are lots of staff on hand to help the hoards of new-to-theatre goers find their seats and get this 3+ hours production off to an enormously promising start.

We all know the story of Hamlet, no need to recount that. Interestingly however Lyndsey Turner choses to start this production with the “To be or not to be” speech. A friend’s conclusion was it got BC out onto the stage fast and alone, to his audience (one behind me adorned in a Sherlocked t-shirt). Almost as if Turner was preempting some hysteria from the fan-girls and was getting that out of the way first… Maybe. Or maybe it was to take that speech, out of context and make it the north star of the play. The essence if you like.

“Dear Audience, This is it. In a nutshell. Get this and the rest of the play will be easy.” Maybe… It’s a bold opening move. And is followed by several bold moves that show a deep understanding of the text.

The set is gorgeous. Like some kind of sumptuous 18th century painting in the Tate Britain. The costumes and colours were subtle yet clever moving Hamlet from the early melancholic black to a last scene of innocent white…

The acting was sublime. Benedict is simply brilliant. He can do no wrong. Also I particularly loved Anastasia Hille as Gertrude. And special shout out to Kobna Holbrook-Smith who was superb as the wronged and tragic Laertes.

BC and Kobna HS

This will be a spectacular success for the Barbican. It will get nominated for Oliviers… And this was only the second preview. There are some stage production issues to iron out (that rug is treacherous) and a couple of costume issues.

I’m coming back for round 2 in October to compare the preview with the mature production. I can’t wait.

5/5 Bold and beautiful.

3/5 stage production — get those bumps ironed out