Thumbs Up! Benedict Cumberbatch Conquers Hamlet Despite Slings and Arrows

Long live the Prince! On August 25, one of the most talked-about productions of Hamlet in the play’s 400 or so years in existence will officially open at London’s Barbican Theatre. That, of course, has everything to do with the Shakespeare classic’s headliner, Olivier winner and Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch, who has chosen, at the height of a dizzying screen career, to tread the boards in one of the most challenging roles in the theater.

Unfortunately, Cumberbatch has been forced to take arms against a sea of troubles. There were the critics jumping the gun and reviewing the play’s first preview (when the “To Be or Not To Be” soliloquy was tried out at the beginning) to some theatergoers not receiving Patti LuPone’s memo and thinking it appropriate to film his performance. This was despite the fact that National Theatre Live will be broadcasting the Lyndsey Turner-helmed show to cinemas around the world on October 15.

Happily, the fastest-selling ticket in London theater history, lives up to the hype. We can report that Cumberbatch is superb in the role, making the iconic Prince of Denmark his own. He is ably supported by the cast, including Game of Thrones’ Ciarán Hinds as the conniving Claudius and Tony winner Jim Norton as Polonius, who lands some of the most famous lines in stage history with delicious aplomb (“brevity is the soul of wit,” “method in the madness” and more).

Cumberbatch’s next projects include Doctor Strange and additional Sherlock episodes; we can only hope that he can find a gap in his schedule to bring the epic production to Broadway.

Hamlet plays at London’s Barbican Theatre through October 31.

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