LAST NIGHT: Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch

WORTH A LOOK?: ****1/2

WHERE: The Barbican

WHEN: 31/10

It’s the end of the last night of 100 or so performances and Benedict Cumberbatch is onstage and on the verge of tears – thanking the audiences across the 12-week run at The Barbican for donating more than £100,000 to Save The Children for Syrian refugees.

There’s no repeat of the rant against politicians which hit front pages 30/10 when Cumberbatch accused them of not doing enough to help the refugees.

Moments later we’re outside the stage door, there’s a spontaneous round of applause and a group of note we can’t quite see is leaving in haste via a 4×4 with blacked-out windows. Has Cumberbatch just left the Barbican for good?

Much has changed for the better since

We first saw this production of Hamlet on 8/8 and much has changed for the better since. For a start there’s no repeat of the two stops mid-show to deal with first faulty sound and then a trapdoor which would not shut. There’s no four-letter rant from the Sherlock star as a result either.

The ‘to be or not to be’ soliloquy has also been removed from the show’s opening, where it definitely seemed out of place, to a much more natural home about halfway through.

The biggest star of the show is revealed on repeat viewing to be the amazing set, on the largest stage we’ve ever seen, which transforms so memorably for the second half. It’s captured on film by National Theatre Live and encore showings continue to be screened across the country.

Was Cumberbatch’s Hamlet the best ever seen? No, but he’s done his reputation no harm at all putting himself through what must’ve been quite an ordeal. There’s no other experience quite like seeing a brilliant actor at the top of their game tackle one of the toughest roles in theatre up close and personal.

  • Did you enjoy this review? Follow author Neil Durham on Twitter @NeilDurham
  • Picture: via Facebook courtesy The Barbican. (left to right Anastasia Hille and Benedict Cumberbatch)

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