Sooo, since I wasn’t able to post anything Monday (being in Edinburgh and all), I thought I’d queue this to post yesterday. Buuuut technology hating me as it did yesterday, it didn’t post! And now you can have it today instead.
In case you couldn’t tell from the recent press coverage, buzz on social media, and queue of fan girls probably stretched all the way to Southwark, the Barbican’s Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch has just started!
It’s only in its first week of previews, but already the hype has been immense. The official photos have just been released, giving us an idea of some elements of this production like time period.
But the news which has probably gripped the headlines most is self perpetuated, and started by the newspapers themselves: preview reviews of the show.
A number of newspapers have taken it upon themselves to be the first ones to get the scoop on this production and review it. And can you blame them! It’s the hottest ticket in town, and that’s up against Bradley Cooper in The Elephant Man and The Book of Mormon.
The only problem is that you can blame. And we are!
Both The Times and The Daily Mail decided to publish some early reviews. And boy, are they getting backlash for it! Reviewing a show not only in its previews, not only in its opening week, but the very first night seems somewhat unfair. No, you know what MASSIVELY unfair.
True, I did it with The Motherf**er with the Hat, but 1) I’m not exactly a leading Arts review which millions read and whose opinions are informed upon, and 2) I actually liked it. Kate Maltby of The Times panned it: branding it ‘Hamlet for kids raised on Moulin Rouge‘, Maltby says, ‘Alas, poor Benedict. It’s hard to flatten Hamlet: he is, after all, Shakespeare’s most quicksilver creation…[the production] distil[s] three hours’ worth of philosophy into a Nat King Cole cliché’.
The thing is, it’s opening night! Your first chance playing to an audience who don’t work with/for you. You’ve got to work out the pacing: what gets laughs, what works well and less well.
THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT OF PREVIEW- PRior to the REVIEW!
And of course, it accomplished its goal and got the reads/discussion it wanted. Even I ventured a quick look at The Times’ review, read one paragraph and then went, ‘Oh god, why are they doing that?!’ And that’s the thing: I’m already judging it before I go, and not just before I go, but before they inevitably change things. *Please change that one thing I read about…you know…the gramophone thing*
It’s a dick move, and I think this series of tweets by TimeOut sums up the general feeling in the critical circle and of theatre bloggers: