Hamlet starring Cumberbatch draws mixed reviews

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch's mother has given him a thumbs up for his role in Hamlet.
Actor Benedict Cumberbatch's mother has given him a thumbs up for his role in Hamlet.PHOTO: REUTERS

London - Benedict Cumberbatch's Hamlet has received mixed reviews, but not from his mother, who gave it the thumbs-up to reporters after the official press night on Tuesday.

"A bl**dy good Hamlet," she said. "Extraordinarily proud. He was quite lively growing up, but I thought that was phenomenal."

Wanda Ventham and Cumberbatch's father Timothy Cumberbatch are both actors.

The British heart-throb is attracting fans from all over the world on his Hamlet debut and for what is the fastest-selling play in London theatre history, according to the Evening Standard.

But the show drew a mixed reception.

The Guardian's Michael Billington gave it two stars, writing: "(Cumberbatch) is a good, personable Hamlet with a strong line in self- deflating irony (but) he is trapped inside an intellectual ragbag of a production by Lyndsey Turner that is full of half-baked ideas.

"Denmark, Hamlet tells us, is a prison. So too is this production."

Ever since the 12-week run was announced a year ago and sold out in record time for a London show, people have been wondering if the production, which began previews on Aug 5, was going to be a Cumberbatch fest or a serious Hamlet.

But Reuters, in its review, said the actor "delivered a Hamlet for our time in a production that played to his strengths, dresses up Shakespeare for a younger crowd and had his fans roaring in approval at the end".

Cumberbatch's Prince of Denmark is seen onstage listening to Nat King Cole's Nature Boy as the show opens, and he wore contemporary clothes including a scarlet military jacket, a David Bowie T-shirt and a hoodie.

The production also tinkers with the text, but the To Be Or Not To Be soliloquy - which in early previews drew controversy by opening the play - was restored to its normal spot in Act III.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2015, with the headline 'Hamlet starring Cumberbatch draws mixed reviews'. Print Edition | Subscribe