Entertainment & Arts

Benedict Cumberbatch's Hamlet returns famous speech to act three

Benedict Cumberbatch Image copyright PA
Image caption Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Hamlet until October

Benedict Cumberbatch's production of Hamlet appears to have restored the famous "to be or not to be" soliloquy back to its usual place in the play.

Early performances of the show at London's Barbican had been criticised for opening with the speech.

Kate Maltby of The Times told the BBC: "You're bringing out your big showbiz number at the beginning and it's hard to take seriously after that."

But theatregoers say the speech now appears in the third act of the play.

Several recent performances of the production are believed to have started with a spotlight on Cumberbatch listening to music on a record player - thought to be Nature Boy by Nat King Cole - instead of the famous words.

The run is still in its preview period - when it is common for theatre companies to edit texts and make changes. The play does not officially open until 25 August.

Kate Maltby came in for criticism herself earlier this month, when she was one of several journalists to publish their reviews before the official press night.

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Media captionLizo Mzimba reports on Cumberbatch's recent request to fans that they don't film him on stage in Hamlet

Speaking to Radio 4's Today programme, Maltby agreed it was "very unfair" to give "a final verdict on a production on the very first day".

She added: "I don't think it's fair to judge things like the energy and the pace... on the first night.

"The real problem with this production, which is not going to change, is that because it's such a star vehicle they've decided to take Hamlet's most famous speech, 'to be or not to be', which is his speech about suicide - 'Is it worth living?', 'Should we all just kill ourselves?' - that's normally in the middle of the play and it's his low point.

"They've taken that speech and made it the opening scene and not repeated it, so we never get it again at its appropriate emotional moment."

The production is directed by Lyndsey Turner, whose previous work includes Posh and Chimerica. It is produced by Sonia Friedman Productions.

On Wednesday, the company said it would not comment on the preview process, but would let the play speak for itself on opening night.

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