World famous Russian actor and theater director Konstantin Stanislavsky famously said of his craft, "Love art in yourself, and not yourself in art." This seems to be something Benedict Cumberbatch has come to terms with during his tenure as Hamlet at the London's Barbican Theatre. Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped hordes of his fans loving him in art. Perhaps a little too much.
A video has recently emerged online which shows a polite, but clearly frustrated, Cumberbatch addressing fans who were waiting outside the theater, camera in hand, to snap a shot of the Sherlock and The Hobbit star. Indeed, their cameras were the focus of his ire. During the short appearance, Cumberbatch spoke of the "mortifying" trend of audience members video recording parts of the play.
The mass of camera phones in the auditorium literally had Cumberbatch seeing red, as he claimed he could spot "camera and red lights" from the stage, throwing him off his performance. You can watch the full video below:
Cumberbatch is currently appearing in a 12-week run of Shakespeare's famous tragedy and from the sounds of the video, they were forced to restart the iconic "to be, or not to be" scene due to some kind of disturbance.
It certainly seems like Cumberbatch is passionate about this issue, and in the video it almost seems like he's struggling to keep back the upset and annoyance at some of the audience members. Of course, the magic of theater is that every performance is a single show that is unique to the particular audience sitting in the theater. Recording it on luminous cellphones is not only ruins this fact, but is also highly disturbing for both the actors and other audience members.
Actors vs Cellphones
In recent years, theater shows have been increasingly plagued by cellphone intrusions, and Cumberbatch is not the first big name actor to rail against them.
Last year, Kevin Spacey castigated a theater-goer at London's Old Vic Theatre after their phone went off during a crucial moment of legal drama Clarence Darrow. Spacey, who was delivering a courtroom speech at the time, turned to the audience in character and shouted, "If you don't answer that, I will!"
In 2013, James McAvoy stopped halfway through a performance of Macbeth to demand an audience member stop filming the play. An eyewitness of the dressing down later claimed, "the poor fellow looked very embarrassed." As he should.
Even earlier in 2009, the usually calm and collected Hugh Jackman broke character to tell another audience member to turn off their incessantly ringing phone during a Broadway production of A Steady Rain. Luckily, another audience member was also breaking the rules, as they managed to record the incident. You can watch it below:
He later spoke in more length about the issue with Katie Couric:
However, although these incidents might seem bad, they didn't quite rip up the theater etiquette rulebook quite like Nick Silvestri's attempt to charge his cellphone on stage. The teenager was filmed jumping onto the Broadway set of Hand to God to plug his cellphone into one of the "clearly fake" outlets on stage.
Luckily, the show had yet to begin, although that didn't stop the rest of the audience from mocking and jeering Silvestri. He later explained, "We were a little banged up... Girls were calling all day. What would you do?"
Some theater critics and experts have suggested the use of big movie names in theater productions has changed the makeup of the theater audience, resulting in a situation where many 'non-theater types' without knowledge of the etiquette are buying tickets.
In the case of Cumberbatch's Hamlet, the 100,000 advanced tickets were purchased within minutes of being released last year, making a performance of Hamlet seem more akin to a live concert of a major rock band than a piece of art. The complaint of some, admittedly more conservative, critics is that these people are only there to see their favorite celebrity up close, and not appreciate the show - resulting in their use of cellphones and flagrant disregard for the rules. Others, however, have suggested the use of famous movie actors is a great way to draw new audiences into the theater.
In any case, I don't think you need to have studied a theater degree to realize you probably shouldn't be recording a play. That's kind of just common decency.