A number of critics jumped the gun in reviewing the production, including ones from The Times and Daily Telegraph, who offered reviews based on the very first preview performance.
Writing for The Times, critic Kate Maltby wrote, "This is a production aimed squarely at those Cumber-fans, right down to the indefensible decision to open with Hamlet’s soliloquy 'To be or not to be.' We should meet Hamlet grieved, but not yet enraged, by the revelation that his father’s death was down to evil uncle Claudius."
But the speech is now reported to have been restored to its proper place in the third act. John Tiffany (a director but not of this production) wrote in a piece for The Observer, "Her assumption was that no structural changes would be made once previews had begun, but that was naive. From what experience did she make that assumption? How many preview periods had she sat though? Last year, I staged a play called Hope at the Royal Court theatre, and after the first four previews I changed the beginning entirely. Every single preview period I sat through as associate director at the National Theatre of Scotland yielded structural changes."
Cumberbatch is joined by a cast that also features Ciarán Hinds as Claudius, Jim Norton as Polonius, Leo Bill as Horatio, Sian Brooke as Ophelia, Anastasia Hille as Gertrude and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith as Laertes.
The production is directed by Lyndsey Turner, with sets by Es Devlin, costumes by Katrina Lindsay, video by Luke Halls, lighting by Jane Cox, music by Jon Hopkins, sound by Chris Shutt and movement by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Cumberbatch is best known for playing the title role in BBC's "Sherlock" and his Oscar-nominated film performance as Alan Turing in "The Imitation Game." Stage credits include After the Dance and Frankenstein (both at the National Theatre).
Also in the cast are Harry Aird (Soldier), Eddie Arnold (Danish Captain, Servant), Nigel Carrington (Servant, Cornelius), Ruairi Conaghan (Player King), Rudi Dharmalingam (Guildenstern), Colin Haigh (Priest, Messenger), Paul Ham (Official), Diveen Henry (Player Queen, Messenger), Karl Johnson (Ghost of Hamlet’s father), , Amaka Okafor (Official), Dan Parr (Barnardo), Jan Shepherd (Courtier), Morag Siller (Voltemand), Matthew Steer (Rosencrantz), Sergo Vares (Fortinbras) and Dwane Walcott (Marcellus).
The entire run is sold out. For details, visit www.hamlet-barbican.com.