Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet: 8 times actors lost the plot over audience etiquette

From Helen Mirren yelling at street drummers to the curse of the mobile phone

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Imagine spending months rehearsing arguably the most iconic of all theatre roles, only to begin your 'To be or not to be' soliloquy and be put off by a load of flashing red lights in the front row.

This is what happened to Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet last week, and he was so "mortified" by the whole thing that he stepped outside to beg fans to help him wage war on camera phones.

But Cumberbatch is far from the only actor to have a go at audiences for their poor etiquette and many others have been much less polite in their ticking offs.

From the late Richard Griffiths personally evicting a man from the National after his phone went off six times to Dame Helen Mirren giving a group of street drummers what for while dressed as The Queen, it seems an apt time to look back on some of the most memorable angry actor moments.

Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig get riled up over ringing phone

One luckless viewer managed to incur the wrath of nice guy Hugh Jackman during a 2009 performance of Keith Huff's A Steady Rain on Broadway. Jackman broke the fourth wall in his Broadway show when the audience member's phone rang not once, but twice during the show.

In a scene with James Bond actor Daniel Craig, Jackman said: "You want to get it? Grab it – I don't care" as the phone went off. When the phone's owner failed to switch it off, Craig joined in, saying menacingly: "Can you get that? We can wait, just get the phone." Both managed to stay in character and maintain their American accents during the incident.


Kevin Spacey threatens to answer an audience member's phone

Renowned actor Kevin Spacey snapped at an audience member in 2014, after a mobile phone went off on the opening night of Clarence Darrow at the Old Vic in London.

Spacey received a standing ovation for his performance, but also got a few cheers for growling in character: "If you don’t answer that, I will!"


Helen Mirren launches tirade at street drummers

Her Majesty was not best impressed when street drummers decided to start playing outside the West End's Gielgud Theatre while she was performing in The Audience. Mirren stormed outside in full regal get-up and "effed and blinded" at the group, who stopped immediately. She later turned up wearing a self-customised T-shirt supporting the As One in the Park LGBT festival the musicians had been promoting. Oh Dame Helen.

5. The Queen (Helen Mirren) in The Audience, photo by Johan Persson.jpg

Patti LuPone snatches phone out of audience member's hand...

The great Patti LuPone taught an audience member a lesson after she spotted them texting during a performance of Shows for Days earlier this year. Frustrated by their poor manners, she walked off stage and snatched the phone out of their hands, all the while staying in character.

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...after ranting at another for taking pictures in 2008

This wasn't the first time LuPone lost her temper over rudeness. She halted a performance of Gypsy in 2008 to launch a furious tirade at an audience member who had been taking pictures of her despite being asked not to before the show started.

Michael McIntyre storms off stage after woman uses phone

Being a comedian he really should have used this as material but a raging McIntyre decided to leave security to "sort out" a woman who kept using her phone in the front row of his Darlington stand-up show last year. He returned several minutes later to resume his act but got quite the ribbing on Twitter for being "unnatural" and "boring".


Richard Griffiths orders man out of play after phone rings

These pesky phones really are an actor's worst nightmare. Griffiths ordered a man out of the National in 2004 when his phone went off six times during The History Boys and did the same with a woman during Heroes in 2005. "Is that is or will it be ringing some more?" he snapped at her after the third time. "The 750 people here would be fully justified in suing you for ruining their afternoon."

James McAvoy shouts at man filming him in Macbeth

What is it with these tragic Shakespeare heroes that makes everyone whip their cameras out? McAvoy did a Cumberbatch in 2013 when he stopped his performance of Macbeth to order an audience member to put his phone away, leaving the man looking "very embarrassed".