Harrogate reader’s rating of Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet

Benedict Cumberbatch.
Benedict Cumberbatch.

By Graham Chalmers

Everyone in theatre land is talking about it but what is Benedict Cumberbatch actually like in the current hit production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet?

There is really only one way of finding out - and that’s to go down to London to see this Oscar-nominated actor in the flesh.

Which is exactly what Harrogate Advertiser reader Ellen Carnazza decided to do...

What follows below is her review of this National Theatre production running at the Barbican.

If you can’t make it down to the Barbican in person before Sherlock star Benedict and the show itself ends its run on October 31, there’s also a chance to see it at the Harrogate Odeon on Thursday, October 15 when there will be a live broadcast to cinemas across the country.

Now here’s that review of Hamlet - and Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance.

By Ellen Carnazza

“I was lucky enough to see Benedict Cumberbatch take his turn as the infamous Danish prince in Lyndsey Turner’s sold-out production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

“Being an avid Shakespeare/Cumberbatch fan, and with all the hype surrounding the production, I was understandably excited, yet just a little bit nervous.

“With previews fraught with technical difficulties, illegal recording and controversy surrounding the placing of the iconic ‘To be or not to be’ monologue (now thankfully returned to Act Three), I admit I had worried that it would not live up to expectation.

“My fears are very quickly dispelled. Cumberbatch holds his audience in the palm of his hand from his opening line.

“Of course, everyone expects him to be brilliant. However, his performance is nothing short of spectacular.

“Not a line is wasted as he transports us through Hamlet’s complex psychological journey into feigned and real madness. Funny, surprising, completely compelling; Cumberbatch proves himself an extraordinary actor with a deeply nuanced performance of an unexpectedly likeable and childlike Hamlet.

“The rest of the cast have varying success in their roles. Siân Brookes’s Ophelia evokes true sympathy, yet she is perhaps too pitiful for my liking, while Ciarán Hinds is suitably intimidating as Claudius but often muffled in his delivery.

“The cast seems to suffer from comparison to Cumberbatch who steals the show, not simply due to his famous name.

“Turner’s production is quite the spectacle with Es Devlin’s decadent set design and a range of technical treats, such as the blasting of the stage with rubble at the end of act four. She creates some truly stunning and poignant images.

“There is potential for critics to grumble, however, at Tuner’s sometimes mismatched vision (exemplified in the bizarre array of costumes) and her frequent jostling of the script. It seems to do little to benefit the production, aside from cutting down the running time.

“It is a production fated to be loved or hated (although its leading man has little to worry about) but it is, without doubt, the theatre event of the year, and not to be missed.”

For details on the Hamlet live broadcast, see Hamletlive