Brief Thoughts on Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch at Barbican Theatre’s Stage Door

I meant to post my thoughts about Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch over the weekend, but got sidetracked by sleep deprivation and a mad dash to get the house cleaned before my parents arrived.

It’s no surprise (or it shouldn’t be) to anyone that I love Benedict Cumberbatch. He’s an amazing actor, capable of making me forget it’s him I’m watching, regardless of the project – that isn’t always the case for me with big-name actors. Unfortunately, it also wasn’t the case with Hamlet. Not sure why, but there you go.

The acting, though, was amazing as was the set design. The costuming was a hot mess, in my opinion. I don’t care that it wasn’t period dress, but there wasn’t a single thread of commonality that I could find. The range went from 20s suits to slacks and a David Bowie t-shirt to lacy dresses. I found it all very distracting.

I also realized I don’t enjoy Shakespeare with Benedict Cumberbatch any more than I do without him. I want to like Shakespeare, really, I do—I’m an English major, for Pete’s sake—but whenever I watch movies or other productions based on the Bard’s plays, I always feel like I’m watching a foreign film with no subtitles. Which makes me feel incredibly stupid. During a conversation about it with a friend of mine, he suggested I forget about the dialogue and just focus on the story—That the language would settle in and I’d see the beauty of it by doing so. He’s probably right and so I will approach any and all Shakespeare from that viewpoint just to see how that works out.

Hamlet wasn’t a waste of money by any stretch, and I’m glad I went (even though I actually missed the live performance which ran at 2 instead of the 7pm showing I went to—that was disappointing…), especially with great company. But I won’t be watching it again like I did with Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch. I went to see that one 3 times! 🙂

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