Benedict Cumberbatch's first night as Hamlet sparks media outrage

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Benedict Cumberbatch to Play Hamlet on Stage in 2015

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.

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Benedict Cumberbatch's first night as Hamlet sparks media outrage
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BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 11: Theater director Sophie Hunter (L) and actor Benedict Cumberbatch attend The Weinstein Company & Netflix's 2015 Golden Globes After Party presented by FIJI Water, Lexus, Laura Mercier and Marie Claire at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 11, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for TWC)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08: Sophie Hunter and Benedict Cumberbatch attend the EE British Academy Film Awards at The Royal Opera House on February 8, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
Actor Benedict Cumberbatch (L) and theater director Sophie Hunter arrives at The Weinstein Company & Netflix 2015 Golden Globes After Party, in Beverly Hills, California, January 11, 2015. AFP PHOTO / VALERIE MACON (Photo credit should read VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08: Sophie Hunter and Benedict Cumberbatch attend the EE British Academy Film Awards at The Royal Opera House on February 8, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
Benedict Cumberbatch and girlfriend Sophie Hunter
Benedict Cumberbatch and girlfriend Sophie Hunter
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 18: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Sophie Hunter seen arriving at Quaglino's restaurant. on October 18, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Happy Pictures/GC Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 23: Sophie Hunter and Max Osterweis attend the 'Bernie' premiere at the AMC Loews 19th Street Theater on April 23, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Hider/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: Actress Sophie Hunter (L) and designer Max Osterweis attend Dior and The Weinstein Company's Opening Of 'Picturing Marilyn' at Milk Gallery on November 9, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images for The Weinstein Company)
BERLIN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 09: Actor Benedict Cumberbatch attends the 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug' European Premiere at Cinestar on December 9, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Anita Bugge/WireImage)
Actor Benedict Cumberbatch arrives for the Los Angeles premiere of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,' December 2, 2013 at the TCL Chinese IMAX Theater in Hollywood, California. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 02: Actor Benedict Cumberbatch attends the 'Star Trek Into Darkness' UK Premiere at the Empire Leicester Square on May 2, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
WAR HORSE 2011 DreamWorks film directed by Steven Spielberg with from l: Benedict Cumberbatch, Patrick Kennedy, Tom Hiddleston
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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.

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 before we pass judgment."


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