Tag Archives: Benedict Cumberbatch

Shakespeare Live

8 May

I went to the cinema yesterday to see “Shakespeare Live”.  The RSC homage to the Bard on the 400th anniversary of his death.

A friend of mine saw it back in April and commented that it was very much like the curate’s egg.  I pretty much have to agree with her.  It was good in parts, mediocre in some, and downright terrible in others.

However, good, bad, and mediocre are subjective, so I’ll just dwell on the parts I truly loved and leave it to others to make their own minds up.

In my view it was an inspired choice to have the production hosted by David Tennant and Catherine Tate, who were the RSC’s most popular Benedick and Beatrice in “Much Ado About Nothing”.  They work well together and were obviously enjoying themselves.

Catherine did the “Seven Ages of Man” speech, which worked very well.

Dame Judi Dench made a wonderful Titania from “A Midsummers Night’s Dream”.  I love the fact that the RSC will not be bound by convention.

Sanjiv Bhaskar and Meera Syal gave wonderful performances as Benedick and Beatrice from “Much Ado About Nothing”.  I would love to see them in a production of the play.

Roger Allam’s performance of Lear’s ‘blow winds’ speech was powerful.  Roger is constantly under-rated as an actor.  He has one of the most glorious voices.

Some of the music was very good too.  Rufus Wainwright has put some of the Sonnets to music.  The one he sang was beautiful to listen to.  I shall have to see if it is available on CD.  It is something I would listen to for sure.  Alison Moyet provided music to Shakespeare’s song “Sigh No More”, which was hauntingly beautiful.

For me, and I suspect, for many others, was the ‘To be or not to be’ sketch.  A young actor begins to declaim the speech only to be interrupted by other actors trying to instruct him how to do it.  Starting with the very funny Tim Minchin.  Benedict Cumberbatch’s entrance during this sketch was greeted with massive applause.  Tim Minchin’s confusing him with Eddie Redmayne was hilarious (“I loved you as the Danish girl”).  David Tennant, Ian McKellen and others all adding their ten cents worth.  But the high point was Prince Charles appearing on stage to declaim the first two lines of the speech.  Brilliantly done.

All in all, “Shakespeare Live” was a fitting tribute to the man who has given the English speaking world so much.


Fan Is Short For Fanatic

8 Sep

Once again we are reminded that the word “fan” is an abbreviation of the word “fanatic”.

I refer to the blogger who posted images of baseball bats wrapped in barbed wire online and made death threats against Amanda Abbington and Martin Freeman.

The fan blogger in question is, allegedly, a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch’s.  I say allegedly.  Because, frankly, in my opinion, such behaviour shows that the person has no real love or respect for him, because if she did, then she would not threaten his friends and co-workers!

One of the things that really pisses me off about incidents like this is that all of Benedict’s fans get painted with the same brush of lunacy.  This is one of the reasons I refuse to be drawn too deeply into Sherlock fandom, and why I refuse to accept the label of “fangirl”.  I barely survived the NCIS fandom, and frankly, the TIVA fanatics have nothing on the lunatic fringe of the Sherlock fandom.

Thankfully, the majority of Sherlock fans are intelligent, sensible, lovely people, a number of whom I have met and like enormously.  There is, however, the very small minority, to which this person obviously belongs, that has me shrieking and looking for a very tall tree to climb!

Actors and other public figures have to put up with a lot of shit.  They tend to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune more than the average person in the street.  What they should NOT have to suffer is the baseball bats and barbed wire of outrageous fruitbats!

Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet

25 Aug

I was fortunate enough when I was in London to have a ticket to one of the previews of “Hamlet”, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

This isn’t going to be a review of the play.  Enough unqualified people have shoved their oar into that particular pond without me now shoving mine into the morass.  This is my impression of Benedict in what has become an iconic role.

I, like so many others, discovered Benedict via the BBC show “Sherlock”.  It was obvious from the first episode that here was an actor of incredible talent.  Apart from “Sherlock”, I have since watched Benedict in other things, my favourite being both versions of Nick Dear’s play “Frankenstein”, which really made me wish I could see Benedict live on stage.  I got that chance on 12th August 2015.

The role of Hamlet is one that really tests the mettle of an actor.  Apart from the final scene, the majority of the play’s drama rests on the shoulders of this one actor.  It is a role that can make an actor’s reputation, or sink him without trace.  Sir Derek Jacobi was my favourite Hamlet.  After seeing what Benedict did with the role, I now have a new definitive Hamlet.  The one I hear and see in my mind’s eye whenever I read the play, which is a lot.

Benedict’s Hamlet is a brilliantly conflicted character.  Hamlet starts off quiet and gentle, playing records and gently grieving, and then Benedict’s energy just explodes onto the stage, leaving the audience breathless.

Hamlet’s madness taking the form of a return to childhood was a perfect touch, as far as I was concerned.  The psychological return to a happier time when his father was alive and Hamlet a mere boy, gave the madness a poignancy that is often lacking in productions of the play.

Benedict, thankfully, played down the often incestuous overtones of Hamlet’s relationship with his mother Gertrude.  Those scenes have always made me feel slightly nauseous.  Thankfully, there is no hint of an Oedipus Complex in this production.

Benedict handles the extremes of the play with a deft hand.  From the madness, to the bawdy humour, to the anguish and anger of revenge, to grieving for Ophelia, Benedict never gives less than his whole heart.  One line, “O vengeance!”, cried from the depths of Hamlet’s soul, quite literally made the hair on the back on my neck stand up.

Benedict’s handling of Hamlet is, I hesitate to use the word perfection, but to me that is what it is.  He creates a Hamlet that aligns completely with my personal vision of the character.

Benedict is such a powerful actor with an enormous stage presence that television and film mute quite a bit.  You can tell he’s a good actor on screen, but it takes seeing him perform on stage to get a real measure of his brilliance.

Nights Out in London

24 Jun

It’s getting closer… in just over a month my London trip will be a reality.

Regular readers of my blog will be aware that I have a ticket for this year’s hottest London show: “Hamlet” starring Benedict Cumberbatch.  However, in the last month my theatre going in London has gone from one show to three.

I am now fortunate enough to be attending “Constellations” starring Loo Brealey that is transferring to the West End for a run.

Then, to put the icing on the cake of my trip, I will also be attending the Proms concert at the Albert Hall – “Sherlock Holmes – Music of the Mind”.  To place a metaphorical cherry on top of this, Mark Gatiss is reading excerpts from the original Sherlock Holmes stories at this.

I know I had said to friends that one can’t go to London without going at least once to the theatre, I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting to go three times.

I would like to see Mark Gatiss in “Three Days in the Country”, but I think that would be stretching my budget just a little too far.

This trip is going to be magical.  I expect to come home with lots to blog about.

Sherlock: Chronicles

14 Dec

“Sherlock: Chronicles” by Steve Tribe is an in depth guide to seasons 1 to 3 of the BBC production “Sherlock” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

However, the book isn’t simply for fans of the show.  Yes, it is aimed at the show’s fan base, but it is also a book for Sherlock Holmes aficionados.

This book has photographs of earlier portrayals of Holmes and Watson, such as Brett & Hardwicke, and Rathbone & Bruce.  There are also reproductions of a couple of Sidney Paget’s original illustrations.  For this Sherlock Holmes fan, the inclusion of photos from the 1970s movie “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes” starring Robert Stephens and Colin Blakely was the icing on the cake.

There are many excellent photos, a lot of them behind the scenes, which delighted the heart of this backroom geek girl.

There are deleted scenes from the episodes, and also, for the Sherlock Holmes fans, wonderful comparisons of scenes from the script juxtaposed with the original pieces from the stories on which the quoted scene was based.

The book is also threaded through with quotes and interviews with Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Mark Gatiss, Steve Moffat, Sue Vertue, Loo Brealey, Arwel Wyn Jones, et al.

The section on costuming was very interesting.  I was unaware just how much input both Benedict and Martin had had into Sherlock and John’s respective wardrobes.

Steve Tribe has created a book that will delight the fan girls, hold the interest of Sherlock Holmes fans, and absorb the geeks who love to know how things are done on television.  And trust me, there is a lot of “How We Did This Stuff”.  I found how they did the tube train scenes in “The Empty Hearse” particularly fascinating.

Highly recommended.

Happy Little Sherlockian

25 Nov

I am a happy little Sherlockian this morning.

Yesterday I arrived home from work to discover that I had a copy of the “Sherlock Chronicles” by Steve Tribe that the lovely Rebecca in England had purchased and sent to me.

I haven’t started to read it (yet), but did sit down to have a little flick through it.  And was immediately captivated by the photographs.  So many behind the scenes photos that I hadn’t seen before, as well as many gorgeous photos of Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, and the others.  And not just Sherlock photos.  I spotted some from other things they had been in such as a photo of Benedict from “Frankenstein”.

The other thing I noticed is that the book also has photos of William Gillette, Jeremy Brett, and Robert Stephens, and copies of Sidney Paget’s original illustrations.  So the book promises to be a feast for Sherlockians, not just Sherlock fans.

As I keep having to point out to people, I’m a Sherlock Holmes fan first; a Sherlock fan second.  I adore Benedict and Martin’s portrayals, for me they are the closest to my ideal of, to me, literature’s greatest friendship.  But I will always love Robert Stephens’ Holmes (my first screen Holmes) and I adored Edward Hardwicke’s Watson.

Then this morning I came online to discover Twitter all abuzz with the news of the read through for the Sherlock special.

Words cannot express my delight at the photo of Benedict and Martin dressed as traditional Holmes and Watson that I also found all over Twitter.

Sue Vertue said the photo shows them as they will appear in the special, which raises some VERY interesting questions.  Is the special going to be divorced from the series and be set in the Victorian period with Benedict and Martin playing their character’s great-great-great grandfathers or uncles?

Is it a dream sequence?  Sherlock strung out on drugs dreaming of a time past?

A friend of mine, Angela, suggested the possibility of a Dickensian “Christmas Carol” type thing with Victorian Sherlock and John as the Ghosts of Christmas Past.

Or is it something as prosaic as the two men attending a masquerade party?

Whatever the outcome, my Sherlockian cup is overflowing… mostly with drool.

Voices in My Ear

19 Aug

I came online this morning to the news that Benedict Cumberbatch will be voicing Shere Khan in Andy Serkis’ adaptation of “The Jungle Book” for Warner Bros.

To say I was overwhelmed was putting it mildly.  “The Jungle Book” was amongst the first movies my mother ever took me to see.  I was fascinated by the dark velvet tones of George Sanders’ voice as Shere Khan.  It left me with a life long love of deep male voices, and a fascination with vocal acting.

It also left me with a preference for animated movies over live action.  With live action, quite often the actors can be chosen for their looks.  In animated films their voices damn well need to be up to the task.

“The Jungle Book” still remains my favourite.  The rich tones of George Sanders, the slight softer, but still rich voice of Sebastian Cabot.  The vultures with their Liverpudlian accents.  Phil Harris’ lively, but laid back tones as Baloo.

My second favourite is “Robin Hood”.  Phil Harris giving voice this time to Little John.  But the really outstanding vocal talents in that movie are Peter Ustinov as Prince John and Terry Thomas as his sidekick Sir Hiss. 

To my way of thinking, voicing an animated movie, or doing a radio play, is the true test of an actor’s talent.  No-one can see your face, so your voice has to do the work for you on so many levels.

The same goes for audio books.  Almost the worst mistake that can be made is for an author to read their own work.  A fantastic book can be reduced to the most appallingly dull drone.  Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, and Sir Derek Jacobi are all brilliant readers of audio books.  Each of them have voices with layers of tone and richness which makes them an aural treat like no other.  I don’t know if Roger Allam has ever done audio books, but he needs too.  His Douglas Richardson in the BBC radio show “Cabin Pressure” is one of the highlights of the show.

In animated movies, radio plays, and audio books the actor’s voice should flow softly into your ear like warm honey.  Swirl around your mind and settle in to your memory.  George Sanders did that to me over 40 years ago.  I am hoping that Benedict Cumberbatch’s Shere Khan will do the same.

Hamlet is a Sell Out

11 Aug

Okay, I expected Shakespeare’s Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch to sell well.  I DID NOT expect it to sell out.

20,000+ people were in the queue at one point.  That was when I knew that the Barbican had a situation without precedence on their hands.

A few of Benedict’s fans have been saying that everyone should have known it would sell out.  I don’t agree.

Firstly, the tickets went on sale twelve months in advance for what is a three month run in one of London’s largest theatres.  There is no way in hell that any sort of sales projection could come up with a complete sell out of all public tickets within a matter of hours.

Think about it.  All tickets (membership AND public) were gone by the first day of public sales for an old, undoubtedly a classic, play that isn’t being staged for another TWELVE MONTHS.

You’d have to be bloody Nostradamus to see that coming!

Hamlet at the Barbican

7 Aug

Having been amongst those fortunate blessed to get a ticket, expect a number of blogs throughout the next twelve months as more news comes out about casting, staging etc.

To say I am excited right now is an understatement.

Roll on August 2015 and Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet at the Barbican.

This is going to be the most quickly passing twelve months on record. 😀

Thoughts on the Casting & Staging of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet

18 Jun

I have been giving quite a lot of thought of late to next year’s production of “Hamlet” at the Barbican with Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet.  Not just to Benedict in the role, but as to who would be my ideal casting in other roles.  Not all of the roles, but roles I see as needing good rapport between the actors.

I know Benedict will be brilliant as Hamlet.  He has an aura of brooding intensity that is just perfect for the doomed Danish prince.  My thoughts on a few other people in some of the other roles follow.

Gertrude: The role of Hamlet’s treacherous mother is an important one.  The Oedipal angst in the mother/son relationship can make or break the play.  My perfect Gertrude to Benedict’s Hamlet would be Dame Helen Mirren.  Old enough for the role, but convincingly desirable as the Shakespearean “yummy mummy”.  Failing the availability of Dame Helen, I think Dame Judi Dench would also be fantastic in the role.  We saw how good her rapport is with Benedict at Hay on Wye earlier this month.

Claudius: No offense to Sir Patrick Stewart, but please can we not see him again as Claudius?  I think he’s played Claudius as many times as Sir Derek Jacobi has played Hamlet.  I can see Roger Allam as Hamlet’s uncle/stepfather in this production.  He has the necessary mix of gravitas and sneakiness to be a wonderful Claudius.  My other choice would be Gary Oldman.  I would love to see just what he would make of the part.

Polonius: Well known as Shakespeare’s most pompous windbag.  However, without carefully handling, he can also be a frightful bore.  Polonius needs a delicate touch.  To my mind Mark Gatiss would be the perfect Polonius.  Think Mycroft without the edge of menace.  Tony Head would also make a wonderful Polonius.  Think Rupert Giles without the intelligence.

Ophelia: I know Ophelia is pivotal to the play, but the character bores me.  She and Desdemona have the dubious distinction of being Shakespeare’s wettest, most irritating, heroines.  Having said that, I would like to see what Naomi Harris, who played Elizabeth to Benedict’s Victor in “Frankenstein”, could do with the role.

Horatio: Whilst not the largest role in the play, I consider Horatio one of the most important.  He is Hamlet’s truest friend.  He never wavers in his friendship, even when Hamlet has apparently gone insane.  The strongest rapport between actors in this play has to be between those playing Hamlet and Horatio.  To that end I would like to see Martin Freeman in the role.  We know just how damn strong the rapport is between Benedict and Martin.  This is probably, however, the least likely casting, more’s the pity.

I’ve also given some thought to the staging.  I am really hoping that they don’t opt for a modern setting.  I have nothing against Shakespeare in modern settings, but it’s too soon after the RSC version with David Tennant as Hamlet.  I want Benedict to shine in his own right, not be compared endlessly to David, which is exactly what will happen if the staging is modern.

I have several suggestions about the staging:

Traditional: Stick to the doublet and hose.  At worst Benedict will be compared to Sir Derek Jacobi and Lord Olivier.

Future: All neon lights, tight leather and metal studs.  Think “Hamlet” in the world of “Blake’s 7”.  It could work.

Past: Joking with a friend when this production was first mooted, I suggested that the setting should be neolithic.  She shrieked in horror, but on further reflection it could work.  Elsinore as a cave system not a palace.  The cast clad in animal skins, and flint topped spears and clubs as weapons.

Whatever the casting and the staging, I do know that next year’s production of “Hamlet” at the Barbican will be one hell of a theatrical experience.

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