Benedict Cumberbatch’s First Night as Hamlet Sparks Media Outrage
British newspapers — including The Times — slammed for publishing early reviews of the performance ahead of its official press night.
Benedict Cumberbatch made his debut as Hamlet on stage at London's Barbican Center on Wednesday night in possibly the most hotly anticipated rendition of Shakespeare’s tragedy since Laurence Olivier's 1948 film.
But amid reports of fans queuing for hours to get one of 30 on-the-day £10 ($15) tickets for the sold-out show, an angry storm erupted over newspapers’ early reviews of the performance.
Despite the play’s official opening (and press) night being on Aug. 25, with the shows before considered previews, both The Times and The Daily Mail ran early reviews following the first night.
While The Daily Mail’s piece was overwhelmingly positive, The Times’ critic Kate Maltby gave the performance two stars, describing it as "Hamlet for kids raised on Moulin Rouge" and "pure theatrical indulgence." The review sparked an immediate response from theater industry professionals, angry that the review had been written before the press day.
Playwright Roy Williams tweeted that the review was "not fair at all" and that previews were called previews "for a reason."
Actor Eddie Marsan, who starred in films including War Horse and is currently appearing in the BBC’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, tweeted that the journalist should allow people to see the first versions of her articles.
Kate Maltby at the Times, in same spirit as your review of Benedict's Hamlet 3 weeks early, let us see & judge 1st drafts of your articles.— Eddie Marsan (@eddiemarsan) August 6, 2015
Mark Shenton, lead critic for industry bible The Stage, argued that fellow critics shouldn't "enter the fray just yet" and lambasted "a quality newspaper" like the The Times for behaving like a tabloid.
"A lot will change between the first preview and first night," he added. "As critics, it is our job to respect the artistic process; and part of the process is an acknowledgement that they need previews to work on their show before we pass judgment."