A reviews round-up for Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch at the Barbican theatre.

A reviews round-up for Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch at the Barbican theatre.

Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch is quite possibly the most highly anticipated show of 2015. Going on sale earlier this year, tickets sold out within hours are currently being treated like gold dust.  Much has been written about the ‘theatrical event of the year’, with certain papers creating a maelstrom of indignation and hate by breaking the traditional embargo and reviewing early performances. Cumberbatch, himself took the extraordinary step of pleading with fans at the stage door to refrain from filming the performance as the sea of red dots from camera’s was distracting.

Well, Hamlet has finally opened and here’s what the critics think so far. More reviews to follow.


A limited number of tickets to this SOLD-OUT show are available as part of a Theatre Break Package.
Make a night of it and see this must-see show. Click here for more details >

Hamlet is playing a strictly limited season until 31 October 2015 at the Barbican theatre.

Average rating score for this production


“he certainly lives up to the billing” “How does he rate alongside other recent Hamlets?  He is less ostentatiously mad than Mark Rylance’s Hamlet and is less prone to the eye-flashing mimicry and tangible modernity of David Tennant’s. This prince of Denmark is more slender, perhaps less bookish, than we had when Simon Russell-Beale did the part; more patrician than Michael Sheen’s; less noble and thrilling than Toby Stephens’s; far less touching than Ben Whishaw’s.”

“I think that it's a rather mixed affair – stunningly designed by Es Devlin, with a fair bit of text and story-line shifted around by Turner, to sometimes eloquent, sometimes irritating effect.”  “The actor commands the stage with a whirling energy”

“Cumberbatch has a gift for suggesting Hamlet’s essential decency, but visual conceits take the place of textual investigation in this frustrating staging” “Cumberbatch has many of the qualities one looks for in a Hamlet. He is especially good in the soliloquies. “To be or not to be”, about which there has been so much kerfuffle, mercifully no longer opens the show: I still think it works better if placed after, rather than before, the arrival of the players, but Cumberbatch delivers it with a rapt intensity.”

“Lyndsey Turner's Hamlet will excite Cumberbatch fans, but also delivers a bold production to those who know Shakespeare’s play well”

"Cumberbatch himself emerges a sardonic, wrathful Hamlet, thrillingly charismatic, if short on the humility shown by more vulnerable Hamlets such as Simon Russell Beale or even David Tennant. Yet he is, as always, one of our great verse speakers, luxuriating in the melodrama of the Players’ “dream of passion”. By contrast, Ciaran Hinds remains a refreshingly controlled Claudius and Anastasia Hille is still outstanding as Gertrude, picking her horror-struck way across mounds of grave-dirt like a refugee from Beckett’s Happy Days."

"Mr. Cumberbatch is no stranger to heavy lifting onstage...He is in fighting trim here, and brings energy and precision to every word and movement, including the climactic fencing match. Yet this Hamlet seldom seems to relate to anyone else onstage. In the big dialogue scenes, you're conscious of Mr. Cumberbatch riding Shakespeare's rushing words like a surfboard, as if saving his interior energy for the monologues. In those, he is superb, meticulously tracing lines of thought into revelations that stun, elate, exasperate and sadden him. There's not a single soliloquy that doesn't shed fresh insight into how Hamlet thinks" Ben Bratley

"...his handling of the verse is largely exemplary in its clarity -- it's more a quality of attack, of pushing every fibre of his being into it. He can afford, too, to take more time, resist this revival's watchword breathlessness..." Dominic Cavendish (preview performance)

"As the dust blasted from the wings at the end of the first half starts to settle, it’s finally time to examine the production directed by Lyndsey Turner and its star performance, and deem them both … quite good. Neither is epoch-defining, but this modern-dress, light-on-gimmicks interpretation packs a strong supporting ensemble, while Cumberbatch’s graceful, witty but somewhat self-effacing turn is certainly no disgrace."  Leslie Felperin

"Turner’s ‘Hamlet’ is one of the most visually and atmospherically stunning productions I’ve ever seen......Styled like a cross between a really good Louis Vuitton ad and a really good Punchdrunk show"

Date: 26 August 2015
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