Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet: First reviews round-up as audience resists fangirl screams

Five stars from the Mail, two stars from The Times. To see it or not to see it?

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The Independent Culture

But the Cumberb**ches will ruin it for sophisticated theatre-goers with their cries of "I love you Benedict!", they said. The Sherlock fans will talk over the soliloquies, they said.

Judging by the first set of reviews from Hamlet at London's Barbican theatre, the audience was "impeccably behaved", even if critiques of Benedict Cumberbatch were mixed, with The Times awarding the Oscar-nominated actor just two stars.

While the play is not officially open to press reviews for three weeks yet, here's what the papers, and Twitter, have to say about the hottest ticket in town:

The Telegraph

Critic Serena Davies reveals that Cumberbatch delivers Hamlet's famous "To Be or Not to Be" soliloquy in the very first minutes of the play, but stops short of analysing performances too early. Cumberbatch "commands and surprises", she writes, while director Lyndsey Turner and designer Es Devlin have created a "lavish, epic Hamlet".

The Times

It was going to take more to impress Katie Maltby, who gave Hamlet a paltry two stars, began her review "Alas, poor Benedict", and harshly dubbed it "a production aimed squarely at those Cumber-fans". She praises Cumberbatch's energy but bemoans his lack of subtlety and loathed the opening more than Hamlet loathes himself. It's "pure theatrical self-indulgence", apparently. Ouch.


The Daily Mail

Jan Moir loves the play, writing that Cumberbatch's "Hamlet in a hoodie was electrifying" in a performance that "veered from moments of genuinely hilarious comedy to plunge down to the very depths of throat-scalding tragedy". Five stars. Who to believe?

Radio Times

Cumberbatch's real strength comes from "finding laughs in unexpected places", says Jonathan Holmes, who describes the play as "the funniest version of the tragedy you'll ever see". Is that a good thing? Hmm, we're not convinced. 

Lucky members of the public who bagged a ticket for the first night posted their reactions on social media, with most people loving the show. Criticisms involved the choreography needing work and Cumberbatch "overacting" in what seemed to be a bid to live up to the great actors before him.

Hamlet runs until 31 October, with Sian Brooke playing Ophelia and Ciaran Hinds as Claudius.