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The Times and Daily Mail panned for Hamlet review protocol breach

Benedict Cumberbatch in rehearsals for Hamlet. Photo: Johan Persson Benedict Cumberbatch in rehearsals for Hamlet. Photo: Johan Persson
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Actor Samuel West and playwright Roy Williams are among those who have hit out at The Times and the Daily Mail for running reviews of Hamlet, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, after its first preview.

Hamlet began previews at the Barbican on August 5, with press night scheduled for August 25.

However, The Times and the Daily Mail have both posted reviews based on the first preview.

The Times’ critic Kate Maltby called it “Hamlet for kids raised on Moulin Rouge”. She acknowledged that her review was ahead of the play’s press night but wrote: “The Times is, as ever, in at the action early”.

Playwright Williams said it was “not fair” for the review to be run based on the first preview.

In a tweet to Matlby, he said:

Meanwhile, actor West described it as “shoddy journalism”.

Actor Eddie Marsan wrote on Twitter that people should be able to read early drafts of Maltby’s reviews.

Writer and comic David Baddiel wrote on Twitter that previews are designed to allow actors a “safe try-out space”.

The Daily Mail sent columnist Jan Moir to review the show. She gave it five stars, but her review drew criticism for including pictures taken of the performer on stage.

Ben Hewis, features editor at Whatsonstage, wrote on Twitter:

The Radio Times has also reviewed the production, while The Telegraph has published a “first look” at Cumberbatch in the show.

The Stage lead critic Mark Shenton said that it was not the “job of theatre critics to enter the fray just yet, and certainly not to review the very first public preview”.

“A lot will change between first preview and first night. 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 judgement,” he said.

Shenton described it as “particularly surprising and shocking” that a “quality newspaper” (The Times) was behaving like a tabloid and “sending in a young reviewer to compromise herself and her reputation by being forced to take the public flack she is now getting by doing so”.

“The Daily Mail, by contrast, merely sent one of its columnists, whose gushing schoolgirl report hardly constitutes a ‘review’, even though she awarded it a five-star rating,” he added.

Hamlet is produced by Sonia Friedman Productions.

In a statement, the company said: “No critics were granted access to the first preview of Hamlet. There has been some reporting this morning to the contrary. Our opening night remains August 25. Official photography from the production is due to be released early next week and therefore any current photography from the production is unauthorised.”

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