Tradition Broken: Two London Critics Review Benedict Cumberbatch Hamlet on First Preview

News   Tradition Broken: Two London Critics Review Benedict Cumberbatch Hamlet on First Preview
In what London theatre columnist Mark Shenton called "a major breach of accepted (and acceptable) theatre protocol," two U.K. newspapers published reviews of Benedict Cumberbatch's heavily touted, long-awaited sold-out Hamlet after its first preview, more than three weeks before the official opening night.

Paul Benedict
Paul Benedict

The London Times sent critic Kate Maltby, a freelance contributor to the paper, to review it. Her verdict , posted online within hours of the curtain coming down on the first preview, gave the show a two-star review, declaring, "This is Hamlet for kids raised on 'Moulin Rouge'." The Daily Mail also broke the customary embargo, but sent a columnist Jan Moir, not a theatre critic (even though she awarded it a five-star rating).

The last high-profile breach of this type occurred in 2011, when critics began publishing reviews for the Broadway musical Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark after the troubled production pushed back its opening night and continued to languish in previews.

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).

Hinds has appeared on Broadway in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Seafarer and Closer. He was last seen on the London stage in The Night Alive at the Donmar Warehouse. Other London stage credits include Machinal (National Theatre) and Assassins (Donmar Warehouse). TV credits include "Game of Thrones," "Above Suspicion" and "Jane Eyre," and film credits include "The Road to Perdition," "Munich," "Excalibur," "There Will Be Blood," "In Bruges" and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

Norton won both an Olivier and Tony Award for his performance as Richard Harkin in The Seafarer. His most recent appearance on Broadway was as Candy in Of Mice and Men.

Bill was recently seen at the National Theatre in Light Shining in Buckinghamshire. Other theatre credits include The Reporter, The Hothouse and Pains of Youth (all National Theatre), Posh (Royal Court and West End) and The Glass Menagerie (Young Vic).

Brooke has been seen on the London stage at the Almeida (in Reasons to be Pretty and My City), at Hampstead Theatre (in Ecstasy and In The Club), at the Royal Court (in Wanderlust and Dying City) and at the National Theatre (in Dido, Queen of Carthage).

Hille has been seen at the National Theatre (in The Effect, Dido, Queen of Carthage, Waves, Women of Troy, Dream Play, The Oresteia and Richard III), at the Almeida (in The Master Builder and The Cenci), at the Royal Court (in Forty Winks and Ashes to Ashes) and at Shakespeare's Globe (in As You Like It and Two Gentlemen of Verona). She has appeared extensively with Cheek by Jowl and the RSC.

Holdbrook-Smith has appeared at the National Theatre in Edward II, Antigone and Death and the King's Horseman and at the Young Vic in Feast, Joe Turner's Come and Gone and The Changeling.

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). 

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