Reviewsday: Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet

I was so excited last Tuesday to see the Fathom Events showing of Hamlet, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. I attended with several friends, fellows of [nearly] infinite jest, and I can’t speak for the others, but I loved it.


Fathom Events are Broadway shows, opera performances, live concerts, etc., that are simulcast or filmed for showing in movie theaters nationwide. It gives movie-goers an opportunity to see many events they couldn’t otherwise afford or schedule.

This Hamlet was lavishly staged at the Barbican in London under the direction of Lyndsey Turner and Sonia Friedman Productions. Though the performance’s emotional pitch seemed extremely and unremittingly high (even for Hamlet), I thought Cumberbatch’s portrayal was nearly pitch-perfect (see what I did there?). His delivery of the “To be or not to be” soliloquy may have been the best I’ve ever seen. And the use of “slow-motion” at a couple points was well done and very effective.

Sure, they monkeyed with the order of scenes and lines, and as always happens (with Hamlet especially) cut a good deal here and there. I missed the excised lines (some of the most famous) in Polonius’s soliloquy. My friend David sorely missed Horatio’s hilarious aside, ““You might have rhym’d” (III,2).

I was most disappointed in Horatio (I can’t find online the name of the actor who played him); somehow the always appealing character of Hamlet’s best friend became emotionally inaccessible to me. I just didn’t get why he delivered his lines the way he did–especially his shouted “Good night, sweet prince.” What the heck? And the play’s final scene in particular seemed rushed, as though someone had another appointment to keep.

Still, for me it was a thoroughly enjoyable performance. Shakespeare’s text never fails to reach me, and it was a joy to see once again the Bard’s powerful lines brought to life–simultaneously on stage and onscreen.



About writerhoss

I am a writer from southwestern Ohio, and a frequent speaker at churches, conferences, and retreats. My books include The Bard and the Bible (A Shakespeare Devotional).
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