Benedict Cumberbatch Take Note: Here's Some of the Greatest Stage Hamlets

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Benedict Cumberbatch will be taking on the tricky role of Hamlet next summer for a 12 week run at London’s Barbican theatre. With time to prepare, the 'Sherlock' star might want to read up on some of the famous actors who have put their mark on the role over the last, well nearly 100 years. We picked these famous five actors as a good starting point for Benedict’s research.

Benedict Cumberbatch at the OscarsHow will Benedict Cumberbatch fare as Hamlet?

John Barrymore

The century’s first great 'Hamlet', John Barrymore’s performances in the title role between 1922 and 1925 where widely praised in their time and are still the subject of critical discussion today. His portrayal was described as ‘the clearest, the most interesting, intelligent and exciting Hamlet of our generation’ by the New York World in 1922. Sadly, despite numerous attempts Barrymore never got to film his 'Hamlet' for the big screen, so all we’re left with is the extensive writing on his interpretation of the famous prince.

Laurence Olivier

Over a decade later renowned British actor Laurence Olivier took on the role, first appearing as 'Hamlet' on stage in 1937. His interpretation of the Danish prince owed much to the era’s trend of psychoanalysis and the influence of Freudian thinking. Olivier did get to put his 'Hamlet' down on film in a 1948 screen version which he also directed. The movie would go on to receive the best picture oscar that year.

Kenneth BranaghLike Olivier Kenneth Branagh took his Hamlet from stage to screen

Kenneth Branagh

Kenneth Branagh took on the famous role twice on stage, first in the Renaissance Theatre Company's 1988 production the and then for the Royal Shakespeare Company four years later. While his first take on the character was praised, his second run gained more acclaim. Writing at the time Charles Spencer from the Daily Telegraph said, ‘Kenneth Branagh gives the finest performance of his career as Hamlet . ...Branagh beautifully captures sudden moments of soul- sick sadness, but there is a wonderful warmth and humour here, as well as shafts of cruelty, sardonic wit and emotional violence." Brannagh would go on to direct himself as 'Hamlet' in a 1996 movie version, which is the only full length version of the play on film, running at over four hours.

Next page: Ralph Fiennes and David Tennant

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