Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet: Technician quits after social media row with actor's fans

Tim Roberts' seemingly harmless tweet escalated into a furious dispute

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A veteran stage technician, who worked in the West End for more than three decades, has quit his job after a social media row with fans of actor Benedict Cumberbatch.

Tim Roberts walked away from his position as a light technician for The Phantom of the Opera last week after a seemingly harmless tweet he posted on his own account escalated into a row with self-styled “Cumberbitches”.

His messages prompted Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Theatres (RUT), which runs Her Majesty’s Theatre where Phantom is staged, to threaten him with disciplinary measures.

Mr Roberts criticised the company for “suppressing freedom of speech” among employees and he now fears he is unemployable in the West End.

Three weeks ago, Mr Roberts tweeted: “The Cumberbatch Hamlet madness – not my cup of tea – I don’t think the ‘fans’ understand the concept of Theatre.” He posted after hearing about fan hysteria surrounding the Barbican Centre’s production of Hamlet.

The tweet sparked a furious response from some fans who trolled his Twitter feed and even sent death threats.

The messages were sent to all the major theatre companies by an unknown source, and when they reached management at RUT the company opened an investigation.

Mr Roberts was unaware that he was under scrutiny and on the following Monday responded to taunts, calling the trolls “neo-Nazis” and referring to the “female cancer” of fans taking selfies.

The backstage worker said of the events, which were first revealed in The Stage: “It was wrong of me; I used troll language to take on the trolls.”

Those comments initiated a second investigation from the company, which had sent employees a memo saying they should be mindful of not damaging its brand or reputation on social media.

The technician, who worked on Phantom for four years as well as Starlight Express and Bugsy Malone in the 1980s, was told disciplinary measures could be taken. “At that point I decided I would walk because I didn’t want to go through disciplinary,” he said.

RUT did not return calls seeking a comment.