An Open Letter To Benedict Cumberbatch

Dear Benedict,

Last night, I saw you perform Hamlet for the second time. Unlike so many of those around me, I did not travel to London just to see this performance. I come to London every year because London is the city of my soul.

Although I recognized your talent and have greatly enjoyed your work until now, I frankly was a bigger fan of Hamlet. As an author and English professor, Hamlet is my favorite play, one I’ve both studied and taught. I identify with that melancholy Dane on many levels, so an opportunity to see Hamlet in London, especially starring an actor of your ilk, thrilled me.

After my first viewing, it took me a week to even put my emotions and thoughts into words.

I was so deeply moved that I had to see it again before I returned to the States.

After my second viewing, I waited by the stage door in hopes of an autograph, determined to find the courage I didn’t have after the first. When you made it around to me, I tried my very best not to keep you any longer than necessary. I was just two or three from the end of the line, and I knew you would be leaving soon. After a performance like that, you must’ve been utterly exhausted, especially since you do that an unthinkable seven times a week.

You were kind enough to not only sign my program but also agreed to a selfie. As you moved onto the next person, some girls pushed me, and I cried out as I briefly lost my balance. You stopped and seemed very concerned, and you told them to be careful and not to push.

You went on to sign their programs, and I quietly muttered, “brilliant performance.” To which you sincerely responded, “thank you,” turning back to look at me. Sadly, in my timidity I had cast my eyes down. Although I met yours a second later, I had but a fleeting moment of eye contact before you looked away.

“Brilliant performance,” I said.

What I had meant to say was this:

Your performance was magnificent. Inspired. Remarkable. You captured Hamlet just as I have always seen him. Raw. Broken. Desperate. Drowning in pain, in such profound despair.

Your delivery was exquisite. Your grief, piercing. Your impassioned anger and sadness deeply touched me. You embodied Hamlet in a way I’ve never seen.

What I had meant to say was that I was in awe to be in the presence of an actor who possesses the level of dedication necessary to deliver such a performance, not to mention the talent. In awe of the focus and effort you must have to become the prolific actor you are.

Before I saw you as Hamlet, I considered you a fine actor.

Now I realize you are an exemplary actor.

What I had meant to say was Thank You for taking the time to sign our programs and pose for pictures. Even though you had given so much of yourself on stage, you took the time to do that for us, and what’s more you were so kind while you did it.

My humble utterance of “brilliant performance” held all of the above and more I’ve not the talent to effectively express in words, despite my profession.

Although I can’t say I have seen everything you’ve done in your career thus far, I have seen many. I have enjoyed them all. I have felt them all. Now, I have a new-found, deepened respect for you as an artist.

I look forward to seeing more of your work in the future, and I can only hope to have the opportunity to express my admiration in person one day. On that day, I won’t cast my eyes down, but I will hold your gaze and fully be present in a rare moment when two human beings truly see and understand one other.

Until then, I wish you continued success, happiness at home, and peace within.

Quite sincerely,
Christine Rose


15 Comments Add yours

  1. rattilia says:

    Reblogged this on rattilia and commented:
    What an English professor and Hamlet fan thinks of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet in London…

  2. rattilia says:

    Lovely letter!

    As a lay person and non-English, I’m not used to Shakespeare. I read Hamlet in my mother tongue and in English for preparation and surprisingly I liked it more than I thought I would do.

    What amazed me and took me by surprise was that Benedict’s Hamlet felt like a real person to me. Never expected that to happen.

    I was on the edge of my seat (literally) from the first sec to the last!
    I loved the epic set, the costumes, all the brilliant actors and was utterly astounded by Ben’s performance.
    In his film and TV work I always loved how nuanced he’s able to play his characters… The more you watch him the more you get from his incredible body language, his voice and pronunciation…. It’s so detailed… the more I had to realize what a skilled actor he really his.

    It was thrilling to see him on stage, bringing Hamlet to life.

    And luckily I’m going to see him again. I can’t wait!

    1. So pleased you liked the letter. His skill is quite extraordinary, indeed.

      I’ve studied Hamlet for over two decades, but BC did make him very real, as you’ve said. More so than I’ve ever seen.

      Tenant’s Hamlet was great, but I only saw it on YouTube. Didn’t get to see Jude Law’s at all, but I heard his rivaled and some say exceeded BC’s performance. I’d love to see it.

      But of those I’ve seen on stage and on film, BC is by far the best. Even better than Branagh’s, which is an extremely high compliment from me.

  3. Sandra says:

    This makes me even more excited to see the show. I will be watching at a theater in the US, as I don’t have the means to make it to London. I am an actor, with a degree in English, and a HUGE Shakespeare nerd. Though Hamlet is not my top favorite work of the Bard’s, I do enjoy it and am eagerly anticipating Benedict’s performance.

    Thank you for your review, and I’m sure he felt the weight and sincerity of your words.

    1. I hope so. I’m going to write this letter longhand and send it to him, just in case. I bought some nice stationary today.

      This is the first fan letter I’ve written in over 20 yrs. I’m pleased you liked the letter and review.

  4. It’s nice this message ❤️
    It’s great to write what you feel
    I keep quiet, just watching silently and go !
    Always my language let me down .
    “Where beauty cannot be described in words”

    1. You and me both. Totally tongue tied. Glad you liked the letter.

  5. kcustren says:

    Congratulations on getting to see the play and Benedict’s performance twice, and for extending yourself in open forum. Well said (you!) beyond those two little words–brilliant is as brilliant does, right? –AND, you have a selfie to boot! ~ Blessings! 🙂

  6. Jaana says:

    Thank you for sharing this incredible beautiful letter ❤ !

    1. You’re very welcome. Thank you for commenting!

  7. Staton Rabin says:

    My guess is that, brief as your comment was, Mr. Cumberbatch probably appreciated what you said to him because you commented specifically about his performance as Hamlet. In my work as a photojournalist and writer, I’m around famous people a fair amount as an observer, and you’d be surprised by how often the fans want someone’s autograph but don’t say anything appreciative of that person’s particular talent or performance– and in some cases don’t even know who they are, only that they are “famous”. So, while I don’t know Mr. Cumberbatch, though you didn’t of course have an opportunity to go into detail when speaking with him about why you felt as you did, I would guess that perhaps to him your brief, calm (at least outwardly!), respectful, and appreciative comment on what he was actually doing on that stage, was actually refreshing!

    1. Thank you so much for this!!

      I hope it was refreshing for him. 🙂

      So pleased you commented. xo

  8. Pamela Mills says:

    What a beautiful letter. I think you do yourself some injustice when you say you have “not the talent to effectively express …” your opinions about Mr Cumberbatch’s performance. I only saw it through the NT Live streaming to a local cinema here in Belfast. However, like you, I was mesmerised. I am a huge fan of his work already but it was like I wasn’t watching the glorious Benedict Cumberbatch but this poor guy called Hamlet. It’s also my favourite of Shakespeare’s plays and I studied it for A Level and at University. I now teach Drama and Theatre Studies to A Level and, obviously, love going to see live theatre. I just wish I had had a chance to see Mr C live in London – although I probably would have sat on in the auditorium, tears flooding my face, looking like an eejit as we say here in Ireland, hours after the curtain fell! Anyway, I was looking for some good pictures of Mr C playing Hamlet for a resource I am making in school and happened upon your letter. I appreciate it’s May 2016 but I just wanted you to know that I loved your letter.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Pamela! It’s much appreciated. He was brilliant, indeed. Looking forward to seeing him in the BBC’s The Hollow Crown: Richard III next week.

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