Benedict Cumberbatch is currently in a run of Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre in London that is so popular it set records for selling out its entire run in minutes.
The show launched last week with a preview performance that was plagued with technical difficulties. Benedict Cumberbatch was put in the unenviable position of having to re-start the opening scene of the play three times to get the flow of the technical performance right.
Folks familiar with Hamlet may protest, “Wait. Hamlet is not actually in the opening scene of the play.”
That is correct. But for this production, the director determined to take the most famous scene of the play, the “To Be or Not To Be” speech, and put it at the beginning of the play. This puts Benedict Cumberbatch on stage from the opening moments, with the star draw reciting what may be Shakespeare’s most famous lines ever, in a show that sold out faster than any other in history.
It sounds like a good idea, if everything goes correctly. But everything did not go correctly for that preview performance. To make matters worse, Benedict Cumberbatch says he had to look out into his audience, only to see a blinking red light staring back at him from the third row.
Someone was recording the show on video.
After the show, Benedict Cumberbatch made his way to the alley outside the Barbican Theatre to speak with some fans who had gathered. What he said was caught on amateur video and posted on YouTube. What he said has been enthusiastically lauded by theatre performers.
“Can I ask you all a huge favor?” Cumberbatch asked his fans. “Can I first of all say a huge thank you for those of you that are here tonight? Its been a hell of a week. It’s been one damned thing after another.”
Benedict Cumberbatch then laid out his gripe.
“I can see cameras. I can see red lights in the auditorium, and it may not be any of you here that did that, but it’s blindingly obvious. I could see a red light in about the third row on the right and it’s mortifying. There’s nothing that’s less enjoyable or supportive as an actor on stage experiencing that.”
Cumberbatch then asked his fans to spread the word for him about his.
“Tweet, blog and hashtag the shit out of this,” he asked them. “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.”
Commenting specifically about the need for re-starting the opening scene, Cumberbatch said, “It’s not the easiest place to begin a play full stop, but for the second time even harder.”
— Nicolina (@lilla_ninni) August 11, 2015