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I went to see Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet and he wasn't that good (Kidding! Made you look!)

Kidding!! Made you look!

As predicted he was excellent.

My amazing friend Lucy got Barbican membership and kept refreshing her screen for 7 hours over a year ago to get tickets to the crazily sell out production of Hamlet, starring oscar award nominee, and Laurence Olivier award winner (twice!!) Benedict Cumberbatch this year. I went with my 3 friends (btw by coincidence, all married and man that is a weird moment when you realise everyone else is going home to their huuusbaands - said in my head in a Beyonce accent - and you are suddenly like shit, I really am a grown up. The income tax and that mortgage isn't lying.) Anyhoo my point is, Hamlet in general and Benedict in particular were marvellous.

Be aware if you don't know Hamlet this post does have some spoilers!

I know a few Shakespeare plays quite well having studied him all the way through school and then my degree, and I probably know Hamlet the best as that was my A2 Shakespeare. I have always been a bit of a Shakespeare fan, at one point as a teenager I went through a weird obsession phase where I had a "Shakespeare notebook" with a picture of Shakespeare on the front (it came like that) and loads of my favourite sonnets and lines from plays inside, sometimes with clippings of Leonardo Di Caprio playing Romeo, or Joseph Fiennes playing Will himself (it did not come like that).

I have grown out of Shakespeare scrapbooking but in all serious, I do agree with Ben Jonson (who wrote a foreward to Shakespeare's collected works back when they were released in 1623) that Shakespeare really was "not for an age, but for all time" - for me, he really taps into what it like to be human, he has good stories, and his poetry is shit hot.

Back to Shakespeare today, (or last week for me) at the Barbican: the set was incredible, goodness knows how it was so big and I do not envy whoever cleared it up at the end of the night as there is so much going on on it. (And not because they have to clean up knickers that have been thrown by Cumberbitches, though apparently that does happen).

All the performances, not just Benedict's were spot on, and made me see the play in a different way. Polonius, who I have not really cared for before I found a really funny character, and I slightly warmed to his nosey busybody personality, and was dreading him getting stabbed. Ophelia, who - this sounds horrible but - I often see as a pretty weak and pathetic character, had so much dimension and I liked her too (in part because of her fabulous wardrobe of mustard yellow jumpers and cool lacey monochrome dresses which is sort of the look I am going for this Autumn too). When she commits suicide, it felt so poignant and so tragic. Even Claudius himself seemed both scarier than usual, but also still had that fear of being found out that makes a baddy believable. (Played by the King-beyond- the-wall Ciaran Hinds).

Having studied Hamlet all the way through my final year at school, and barely glanced at it since, it was interesting to revisit the play 10 years later (oh good grief it is 10 years ago that I was in year 13). It occurred to me a little bit of what Hamlet seemed to be having - aside from the death of his father, the ghost of his father, the marriage of his mum to his uncle, and the fact he is a prince - a bit of a quarter life crisis. The standard realisation that you are a grown up, your parents are just people, the relationship you are currently in may be the one you stay in forever, and you've inadvertently made a decision about what job you'll be doing the rest of your life. Ok, so there is a much more suicidal depression running along for Hamlet, but never the less it was interesting to visit it as someone a little bit older. The question of whether Hamlet is mad (did he really see the ghost of his father) is one of the key themes in Hamlet, but mad or not, looking at Hamlet now, I recognise he definitely had some serious mental health issues, very bad depression, and as a grown up I empathise with that far more than I did in school, and Hamlet (play not the man) gets a little more interesting because of it.

Yet despite all of this, the wonder of Shakespeare (and some great comic timing by Benedict Cumberbatch and the cast) is that there are still some bits that you laugh at, and you don't walk away feeling like utter crap and a bit sad face, but more pleased as punch you did something so damn cultural on a Tuesday night.

Ok, so it would be silly for me to be like "yeah just go and get some tickets" as they are difficult as hell to come by (and fyi they check ID with the name of the person on the ticket on the door so there is no point buying a super expensive ticket off ebay) but my main take away from this is I would like to see Shakespeare more often please. How lucky I am to live in the country he was born, and in the city where his plays are constantly on. If you are desperadoes to get tickets to see Benedict because you are a massive Cumberbitch, then you can try and get one of the on the day tickets, by waiting outside the Barbican before they open at 9 (though I've heard those go like hot cakes).

I was a good girl, and like asked by Benedict, took no photos of the show so I can't share them, but what I will share is this short clip of Beyonce and her huuuussband singing Coldplay, just because:

PS. More things for cultural cumberbitches.

Copyright for top photo - Evening Standard

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