I primarily wrote a note about this for darling Moonlightmead, but I'm sure she wouldn't mind if I shared the essence of it with others here.
I went to see the Cumberbatch Hamlet on Saturday - the matinee before the final evening performance. A friend in the know kindly fineigled a ticket for me. I had read some mixed reviews about the production beforehand, and I am no theatre expert myself, but I have to say I was enthralled for the entire three hours.
Cumberbatch was totally magnetic - the soliloquies were sharp and intelligent, but at the same time had real emotional punch. He was a constant whirlwind of activity and the perfect manic mix - hyper and comical one moment, dark and bitter the next. He had a lot of comedic touches, plus he is physically extremely dextrous, so there was quite a lot of physical clowning. His playing at 'madness' was more literal than Rory Kinnear's, which was a more cynical affair - and of course on a smaller scale. This production by contrast was just HUGE - the stage looked enormous. It was dressed as the interior of a grand 19th century great house or castle, with a huge staircase, a gallery and various wide openings at the back and the sides. In keeping with this scale, Hamlet's 'madness' was also broadly drawn - he took to dressing in a red soldier's coat and parading up and own, and there was a truly (and deliberately) hilarious bit where he was pretending to be a toy soldier inside a large model fort, marching up and down stairs so all you could see was his hat gradually disappearing and appearing again. But then of course the real despairing madness sets in and this coldly-magnificent set of opulence is, in the second half, a picture of ruination - debris everywhere, broken masonry, huge piles of ashes over which everyone walks. In retrospect I'm not sure why it all looks like this, other than the context of war with Norway, but at the time it felt entirely right to me that the last half of the play, spiralling inexorably towards total disaster, should have such a setting.
Then there was the slo-mo stuff, where Hamlet soliloquises, spotlight on him alone, and everyone around him slows down. This was slated by reviewers, but I though it was a great (if very filmic) device which allowed Hamlet's internal debate to happen without him being taken out of the context of everything around him. And in the fight scene at the end, the point at which he stabs Laertes goes into this slo-mo moment with flashing lights and a sort of broken-up spotlight on Hamlet, and everyone else does a strange reeling in and out, like cogs or spindles, until he delivers the blow and then the lights come back on again and everything is at normal speed - startling and very dramatic, and although some might say perhaps a bit too much, it does work as the moment all the other slo-mo stuff has been building up to.
I should add a thumbs-up to Ciaran Hands, whom I though was a very good Claudius, and Anastasia Hille ditto as Gertrude.
And after the curtain call, Cumberbatch did his five-minute piece on Syria - extremely moving - breaking off partway through to point at someone in the back of the stalls and say "Please will you put that camera AWAY! I'm talking to you all here, not the wider world." And everyone clapped. :))
And he also aid "please turn out all your change, FOLD IT,and give it to the Save the Children people in the foyer." :))