Private Eye logo
twitter
twitter
rss
rss
rss
rss
gnitty
street of shame
A tale of two theatre reviews
Benedict Cumberbatch, Issue 1399
benedict cumberbatch.jpg
ON 6 AUGUST, almost three weeks before its official press night, the Mail reviewed Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet. Geysers erupting through Icelandic lava fields have rarely been as gushing. Cumberbatch was “electrifying, a performance that veered from moments of genuinely hilarious comedy to plunge down to the very depths of throat-scalding tragedy”.

This ecstatic verdict came from Mail columnist Jan Moir. Although she isn’t a regular theatre critic, and so not bound by the same conventions, it still seemed to break the gentleman’s agreement that while newspapers can run features and puff-pieces about a new production during previews, they shouldn’t pass judgement until the trial run is over. But then she did give it five stars. There was no complaint from the Barbican.

‘Hamlet for kids’
The same tolerance did not extend to the Times’s Kate Maltby, a proper critic rather than a Glenda Slagg, whose review appeared on the same day as Moir’s. This was “Hamlet for kids raised on Moulin Rouge”, Maltby thundered. She hammered director Lyndsey Turner’s decision to update fuddy-duddy old Shakespeare and put Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy at the start of the play. It should be where Shakespeare meant it to be, when Hamlet is at his despairing lowest, she said. Instead, this was like a “production of Turandot that moved the climactic Nessun Dorma to the opening number just because, post-Pavarotti, football fans can sing along”.

Cumberbatch’s army of fans went wild on Twitter. Maltby received death threats. Lez Brotherston, director and choreographer Matthew Bourne’s long-term designer, did not go that far but tweeted that he hoped to meet Maltby so he could “slap” her. Meanwhile, eminent thesp Samuel West cried: "Really shoddy journalism for the Times to review the first preview of Hamlet. Breaks all boundaries of protocol, taste and art.” Maybe; but is it any more shoddy than charging a whopping £69 for seats while maintaining that the preview is essentially a glorified dress rehearsal, not yet fit for critical assessment?

‘Some kind of deal’
Lawyers for Sonia Friedman Productions complained to the Times about the Maltby review and an unauthorised picture which accompanied it. The Times took down the picture but stood by Maltby’s journalism.

Maltby herself went on Radio 4’s Today programme and explained that the Times had broken the embargo because “we were made aware that a rival paper had cut some kind of deal and would be producing very favourable coverage for some really good access”. Her allegation was met with outraged denials, which must, of course, be true.

The fact that no one has threatened to kill Jan Moir (on this occasion), or slap her, or complained to her editor, or resorted to lawyers, or accused her of breaking “all boundaries of protocol, taste and art”, even though she ignored the embargo as flagrantly as Maltby did, is just one of those supernatural coincidences which only go to prove the truth of Hamlet’s assertion: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” And here’s another coincidence: last week the Barbican did a sudden U-turn and shifted Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” speech back to Act III.

More top stories in the latest issue:

JERRY CAN OF WORMS
More emerges on Jerry Lewis, who failed to declare his interest when writing about allegations against old friend Lord Janner, the Labour peer.

RUPERT’S BILL OF HEALTH
Why Rupert Murdoch won’t be suing the law firm whose findings, he said, once led him to believe everything at News International was tickety-boo

IN THE LAND OF THE RISIBLE SUN…
The Sun slams an England footballer’s use of a ‘vile “Jap” jibe’ – and entirely forgets its own extensive use of the word down the years.

BAKU SCRATCHING
Why the unsubstantiated puffery for the Azerbaijan games in the Evening Standard? Surely not because its publisher took £50,000 from the organisers!

SAY IT WITH FLOWERS…
Panic at the Telegraph where those who subscribe for a year are offered free flowers, but others can get a cheaper deal from the paper’s own call centre!

To read all these stories in full, you can buy the latest edition of Private Eye - or subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale:
1st September 2015.
gnitty
More From This Issue
In The Back
The latest stories
more »
In The Back
Strips
Young British Artists
more »
Strips
Crossword
Win a £100 prize
more »
Crossword
Also Available Online
More From This Issue
Private Eye Issue 1399
private eye Only In The Magazine

10 Reasons Why Voting for Corbyn Will Lead to Civil War: Daily Mailograph Exclusive… It’s Brillo! The ‘Wedding of the Century’ Memorial Plate… Labour Demand Re-Run of General Election… Those Calais Songs of Praise Hymns They Didn’t Use… Santa Claus Handouts Probed by Accountants… A Level Gender Gap Widens as No Boy is Photographed Jumping for Joy

And also...

- Batman & Yentob: How neither got their stories straight in the Kids Company closure
- May day! Polls on why Labour lost the election still don’t tell the whole story
- PLUS: Fleeing Eritrea; a government gamble on super-fast gaming machines; and why the Corbyn tax figures don’t add up.
For all these stories you can buy the magazine or subscribe here and get delivery direct to your home every fortnight.
Next issue on sale: 1st September 2015.

Private Eye Issue 1398
gnitty