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Benedict Cumberbatch and cast rehearse 'Hamlet' (Pic: Johan Persson)
Benedict Cumberbatch and cast rehearse ‘Hamlet’ (Pic: Johan Persson)

It’s not common theatrical practice for reviews to be posted a new production after just one performance. Most shows need a little bedding in, so directors can see what works in front of an audience and what doesn’t, and actors can fine-tune their performances for maximum impact.

But all of that was thrown out of the window last night, as Benedict Cumberbatch took to the stage at London’s Barbican for the first public performance of his Hamlet.

The fall of the final curtain acted as a cue for a sudden commencement of elbow-jostling among the papers to be the first to review the production, with the Daily Mail claiming it as “electrifying,” Radio Times claiming that Benedict’s particular strength lay in “finding laughs in unexpected places” and the Telegraph calling it “lavish” and “epic.”

Taking a different tack, the Times appears to have taken particular exception to the shift of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy from Act Three right up to the beginning of the play. In her dissection of the production, Kate Maltby’s conclusion is that it is nothing more than “Hamlet for kids raised on Moulin Rouge.”

Her decision to bury the play (and not praise it) at such an early stage has been the cause of some discussion on Twitter, with fellow Times journalist David Aaronovitch praising her nerve and actor Kerry Shale calling her an opportunist:

Not that there’s been any sign of a shyness on the part of media organisations to offer their own particular tuppences. Or indeed of Benedict fans, most of whom seem to be entirely overwhelmed:

Nothing has escaped appraisal, not even the break in the middle of the show:

OK, that was just a joke. But special mention must go to the person who missed the entire performance because they were too busy looking at a fox. Not Benedict himself, you understand, an actual fox:

See more:
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FIRST LOOK: Benedict Cumberbatch in Rehearsal for ‘Hamlet’
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By Fraser McAlpine