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Benedict Cumberbatch gets mixed response for Hamlet debut

Published 06/08/2015

Benedict Cumberbatch with the cast of Hamlet in rehearsal
Benedict Cumberbatch with the cast of Hamlet in rehearsal

Benedict Cumberbatch made his hotly anticipated debut as Hamlet last night - and his performance drew mixed reviews from the critics.

Dozens of die-hard fans camped overnight to snap up the final few tickets to see the actor tread the boards as Shakespeare's tragic hero, said to be the hardest role in theatre to master.

The Daily Mail's Jan Moir hailed Cumberbatch's performance as "electrifying" and gave the production at London's Barbican theatre five stars.

She wrote: "His Hamlet in a hoodie was electrifying, a performance that veered from moments of genuinely hilarious comedy to plunge down to the very depths of throat-scalding tragedy."

But Kate Maltby in The Times was less impressed, labelling the production "Hamlet for kids raised on Moulin Rouge" and giving it just two stars.

She wrote: "Benedict Cumberbatch has all the energy Hamlet requires, sweating around the Barbican stage like an oleaginous electric eel, but there's little subtlety in this performance."

She was critical of the decision to open the play with Hamlet's famous soliloquy "To be or not to be", saying it was "indefensible". The words are usually not heard until act three.

Summing up her view, she wrote: "It's a wasted opportunity: pure theatrical self-indulgence."

Serena Davies in the Daily Telegraph wrote that director Lyndsey Turner and designer Es Devlin "have created a lavish, epic Hamlet for the Barbican's vast stage".

"Not perhaps since it held the barricades of revolution for the first performances of Les Miserables in the Eighties has this platform seemed quite so large."

Last night's performance was a preview and the play runs for three more weeks until critics are formally invited to review it.

Ms Davies said: "Cumberbatch's interpretation of the title role is going to shift and develop.

"He already commands and surprises, there are laughs and shocks, and with a cast that includes the always moving and intelligent Ciaran Hinds as Hamlet's murdering uncle Claudius, he is ably supported."

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