Such is the adoration for the “Sherlock” star that the production, on stage at London’s Barbican Theatre, sold out a year in advance of opening night.
LONDON — To plead or not to plead? After a “mortifying” moment during a preview performance of “Hamlet,” Benedict Cumberbatch decided it was time for a direct appeal.
He’d been onstage, delivering the Prince of Denmark’s most famous soliloquy, when the red light of an audience member’s cellphone camera flustered him so much that he had to start the scene over.
“There’s nothing less supportive or enjoyable as an actor being onstage experiencing that,” Cumberbatch told screaming fans lying in wait for him outside the stage door. “And I can’t give you what I want to give you, which is a live performance that you will remember hopefully in your minds and brains, whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, rather than on your phones.”
So, please, he implored his listeners, could they “tweet, blog, hashtag the (crap) out of this one for me”: Put your devices away. If you don’t, new equipment being installed inside the Barbican Theater will detect violators and you’ll be ejected.
Most Read Entertainment Stories
- ‘The 6:20 Man’ is the top national fiction bestseller
- Review: Backstreet Boys, in White River Amphitheatre show, bring back the nostalgia
- Now streaming: 'Everything Everywhere All at Once' available on VOD, 'Black Bird' on Apple TV+ and more
- LAPD ends investigation into Anne Heche car crash
- Actor and comedian Teddy Ray dies in Southern California
Such are the slings and arrows these days of his outrageous fortune, a meteoric rise to international fame as the star of the hit TV series “Sherlock” and movies such as “The Imitation Game.”
When tickets for “Hamlet” went on sale in 2014, a full year before official opening night, the entire run sold out within minutes, the fastest of any show in London’s history.
Some news outlets have unashamedly ridden the wave themselves, breaking theater-world protocol by racing to publish reviews of the opening preview performance instead of allowing director Lyndsey Turner to iron out kinks before media night.
The Daily Mail gave the production five stars. But the Times of London awarded only two stars in a review that opened, inevitably, with the line: “Alas, poor Benedict.”
The Times of London critic, Kate Maltby, castigated Turner for moving Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy from Act III to the play’s beginning, igniting a controversy over whether Turner was right to move it and then whether Maltby was right to reveal it. In a victory for whomever, theatergoers who saw the play last week reported that the passage had been restored to its usual place.
Star turns onstage are, of course, nothing new. Nor is a hunk or heartthrob playing Hamlet.
David Benedict, a veteran arts writer and former London drama critic for Variety, said, “Every young actor wants to do Hamlet. It’s a great role, so why wouldn’t they?”
David Tennant, then BBC’s “Doctor Who,” essayed the role in 2008 to great acclaim; Jude Law did it a year later to rather less.
Emma Goode, an actress from Los Angeles, spent a few extra days in London after a trip across Europe in order to line up for a ticket to the first preview performance, so she saw the version in which Hamlet’s soliloquy opened the play.
“I was a theater major in college, and I was like, ‘That’s not how this play starts.’ Then it was a moment of, ‘Oh, crap, is this going to be one of these weird adaptations of “Hamlet”? Because that’s not what I signed up for,’” Goode, 26, recalled.
But all’s well that ends well — in this case, with a standing ovation for the evening’s lodestar, Cumberbatch. “Despite that weird start, I think it was very true to the story, and I wouldn’t call it a weird production. I would say it was unique,” Goode said.