The hype! The frenzy! The mania! The camera-clicking, smartphone-filming hoards! Was there ever a ‘Hamlet’ hotter? You can forget about bagging yourself a ticket, if you haven’t already got one. Don’t even think about rocking up to the bleak and dingy Barbican Centre to queue through the night for one of the thirty-a-day £10 ticket hand-outs they are promoting, to anyone bonkers enough to bring a flask of Lucozade and a bag of wet sarnies and stand patiently in line.

Forget the worthy thesp dimension, too. We can park all that. Thanks to who’s in it, Cumberbitches, we’re talking Show, capital ‘S’! We’re talking Shakesperience! We’re talking cinematic set, almost Sensurround special effects, a somewhat up-herself director in Lyndsey Turner who has clearly never grasped the principle of ‘less is more’ (and who also meddles with the original text – forsooth!) and a pale cast perhaps chosen for imprecise diction (although the ghost is too ghoul for school), unremarkable appearance and indistinct acting ability. All of which hurls the spotlight on the brilliance of Benedict Cumberbatch, and ensures it stays glued to him.

I adored him, who didn’t, as ‘Sherlock’. Felt personally offended by the Academy’s failure to award him the Oscar for his portrayal of tortured code-breaker Alan Turing in ‘The Imitation Game’. Bought these ‘Hamlet’ tickets over a year ago, and have sat miaowing on top of the carport ever since (get thee to a nunnery, Miz ShowBiz!) What a piece of work he is.

Cumberbatch’s insane Dane is precise and energetic, moving and mighty, strop-throwing and savage and woebegone. He is urgent and convoluted and charismatic. His feigned madness is a marvel, his soliloquies at times almost swallowed, to the point that the audience finds itself leaning in, physically, to soak up the syllables.

Race, nay, flatten people, to get a ticket to one of the National Theatre‘s live screenings of this production in Sony 4K. It’s as close as you’re gonna get.


You want the ridiculous on top of the sublime? Do you? Chances are that you will get a ticket to ‘Bend it Like Beckham’ at London’s Phoenix Theatre, but might find yourself wishing you’d stayed at home.

I was a mild fan of the 2002 film, though not much of Keira Knightley. There is something indefinably irritating about her acting, her voice, her face, even, that I can never quite get beyond. Not that she’s in the musical. I digress.

I love Howard Goodall, this show’s composer. And the lyricist, Charles Hart, comes with good creds. But do you think I can remember a single song from it? I was reminded of the ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’: not the TV programme of yore, but the community of music publishers and songwriters that inspired it. When virgin pressings of records were delivered in the good old days, executives would give a listen to the ‘Old Greys’ – the trusty doormen in dull suits. Songs that made enough impression to have the old boys whistling the melodies after just one hearing were deemed to have passed the ‘old grey whistle test’. I’ve got a feeling that they’d find this show offside.

Because the goalposts have shifted a bit. I remember Gurinder Chadha‘s movie having an overview of inclusion – Punjabi Indians and British whites living harmoniously side by side in a west London suburb. The musical appears to make more of the divide: the changing face of Britain with its make-up off?

So the costumes are pretty cool. I felt giddy from the whirling wedding guests (who’s sari now?) Fed-up that football coach Joe wasn’t played that night by Jamie Campbell Bower, aka Gellert Grindewald in ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’, and vampire Caius Volturi in the ‘Twilight Saga films. Unmoved by Preeya Kalidas‘ self-obsessed bride-sister Pinky, despite her ‘East Enders‘ fame, and the fact that she was also in the BILB film, as Monica. Irritated by the widely raved-about ‘special effect’ football being naught but a bouncing spotlight. A game of two halves? About that…


Bored with all your music? Hit the Rhodes, Jack. Or should I say, RHODES. It’s how the 25 year-old Hertfordshire boy David styles himself. You may remember the solemn, echoey, tormented ‘Breath’, the song he recorded with Birdy a while back. He’s been on the road since, supporting Laura Marling, Rufus Wainwright, Nick Mulvey, London Grammar and Sam Smith … and no wonder. His debut album ‘Wishes’, just out, is a revelation. Sounds like? Moody. Folky. Ballady. Bare. The entire canvas is his.


September 29, 2015


The hype! The frenzy! The mania! The camera-clicking, smartphone-filming hoards! Was there ever a ‘Hamlet’ hotter? You can forget about bagging yourself a ticket, if you […]
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An ancient showbiz debate has been reignited, such fun, by the Young Vic’s recent production of ‘Song From Far Away’. Nudity in live theatre is never […]

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