Hamlet (Part 1 of 2)

Recalling watching Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet.

On Monday (10 Aug 2015) I went to see Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet at the Barbican, London. How did I get tickets to “the most in-demand theatre production of all time”? Earlier this year I happened across the Sky Arts ticket ballot for the chance to purchase 1 or 2 of the 60 tickets per performance of the play set aside for this purpose. I have no memory of how I found it but I entered it because why not(?) and then promptly forgot about it (so small did I think my chances of success) until in June I received a email saying I’d been successful which I stared at for some time as I first remembered that yes, I had entered a ballot and then came to terms with the fact that I was going to see Benedict Cumberbatch!! (& Hamlet, I do care about Shakespeare too.)
I’ve been fond of Cumberbatch ever since his character had the following exchange with Miss Marple in the ITV adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder Is Easy:

Marple: I don’t remember, exactly. *changing the subject* Malaya, what did you do there?
BC’s character: I was a police detective, which comes in very handy when someone’s spinning me a yarn.
Marple: Oh. Well, in that case, I met Lavinia Pinkerton for the first time on the day she died. I believe she may have been murdered.
BC’s character: *pause* You don’t LOOK batty.
Marple: Thank you, Mr Fitzwilliam.
BC’s character: Though appearances can be deceptive.


And even discovering it was rather a travesty of an adaptation (don’t mind me, Agatha Christie purist that I am) can’t take that away. A couple of years laterSherlock premiered and I watched and loved the first series along with many, many other people, then the same with the second series with even more people… leading up to where we are today with me totally fangirling over myHamlet tickets. As for fan names I always thought ‘Benaddict’ was underappreciated until Nothing Much To Do took it and now I hold a preference for ‘Cumbercookie’ because together we make a Cumberbatch! :’) (I’ve found this slightly too funny ever since I first read it somewhere.)
I was also looking forward to seeing Ciarán Hinds as Claudius (Hamlet’s uncle). He’s been in too many good things to list but, most importantly to me, he was Aberforth Dumbledore in Harry Potter and more recently Mance Rayder in Game of Thrones. When there, I was sure I recognised Karl Johnson from Lark Rise to Candleford among other things and a programme bought at the interval confirmed this to be true; he played the Ghost of Hamlet’s Father & the Gravedigger. The programme also alerted me to the fact that Rosencrantz who I had vaguely recognised was the actor Matthew Steer who I really should have recognised because I’d only seen him on TV the night before as Albert in the BBC’s Partners in Crime – a series adapting the Agatha Christie ‘Tommy & Tuppence’ novels The Secret Adversary and N or M. Actually that was probably the strangest thing, seeing an actor I only knew as a single character on TV at home one night and then in the flesh, in front of me the next. Also interesting was seeing Kobna Holdbrook-Smith play Laertes as the only time I’ve ever seen him before is when they broadcast the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the National Theatre, part of which was him playing Guildenstern to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Rosencrantz in an extract from Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. (As a side note: I really recommend trying to find it to watch – either that extract or the whole thing.)
I think this was the first time I’ve been to see a proper production of Shakespeare, the closest I’ve ever got before is watching the TV film version of the stage production of David Tennant’s Hamlet a few years ago. (I realise this is rather undermining my previous claim that I do care about Shakespeare as well as the actors.) However, it was so engaging that I didn’t really notice the length and neither did I struggle with the language – I’m not saying I understood every word that was being said but, between actions, acting, getting the general gist of a conversation or passage of speech not to mention general knowledge of the plot, I always knew what was going on.

This is so ramblish and long I’m going to put the more play stuff in another post but for now it is safe to say the production was amazing and I had an incredible time.