During an unscheduled break at the Aug. 8 performance of Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre Center in London, star Benedict Cumberbatch dropped character and spoke directly to the audience, begging them to stop recording his performance on their cell phones.
He said he was constantly distracted by the sight of red recording lights in the audience.
"It's mortifying and there is nothing less supportive or enjoyable as an actor on stage experiencing that."
Owing to technical problems with the production, he said, "We had to restart again tonight at ‘To be or not to be,’ which is not the easiest place to pick up a play full stop, but this made it harder. It’s very, very obvious.” He pleaded, "I can't give you what I want to give you, which is a live performance that you'll remember, hopefully, in your minds and brains--whether it's good, bad or indifferent--rather than on your phones."
He warned that starting this week, people recording the performance "will be detected and evicted."
As compensation, Cumberbatch asked audience members to record one last thing: his speech about cell phones, and to post it widely on the web, which they did. Here is a live recording of that speech:
It's the second time in a week that Cumberbatch's Hamlet was in the news. Two London newspapers ignored traditional embargoes and reviewed the first preview of the production, rather than waiting three weeks for the official opening night: