In the time it takes you to read this sentence, the fanatically awaited season of Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch playing the great Dane sold out. Well not quite..more likely the amount of time it took for me to two-finger type it. The sale of the 100,000 tickets for the 12-week run at London’s Barbican Theatre was the fastest in British theatrical history.Hysteria and madness surrounded the production, with fans travelling from the four corners to get a glimpse of the the man or if they were lucky, to actually see him on stage. Many camp out overnight to grab the 100 tickets that are held back each day for £10, and are twelve deep to catch him when he sometimes comes out after the show, after initially saying he wasn’t going to do so. Needless-to-say this was not conjusive to collecting his graph on my sketch. I have battled hysteria before and it’s not pretty.Theatre staff were instructed not to accept anything at the stage door for him, so that scuttled that plan.I decided to take a more saner route and get a wristband for the BFI London Film Festival’s Gala Screening of Black Mass at the Odeon in Leicester Square yesterday. Both Benedict and Johnny Depp were scheduled to appear and they duly did. I even managed to get a good posse near the drop-off. So far so good. you may have noticed that ‘Benedict Cumbebatch’ is quite a lengthy moniker and he signs in full, which takes time. No ‘BC’ for Sherlock, although he did have a brief spell initializing his sig for Star Trek stuff. Therefore, and rightly so, it’s only one item per person. Here’s my dilemma. For four years I have carried around an A4 sized Tinker Tailor Solder Spy poster which had been signed by all the cast members, except Benedict. Try as I did through rain, hail and shine, I never managed to get it graphed. Do I try to get it signed this time or do I go with the drawing? I decided to go with the sketch, and it proved an excellent choice, because he was very pleased with the rendering and took time to, not only dedicate it, but write a nice message. I took the opportunity to ask, apologetically, if he wouldn’t mind also signing the poster, which he kindly did. Here’s the sketch. The poster and it’s tale is for another day.
Danny Boyle returned to theatre direction with an adapted version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein by Nick Dear at the National Theatre in London in 2011.
Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternated the two lead roles of Victor Frankenstein and the Creature. On the 17th and 19th of March 2011, the production was broadcast to cinemas around the world as part of the National Theatre Live programme.
Benedict and Jonny both shared the Olivier Award and the London Evening Standard Award for Best Actor for their respective performances. However, the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards’ Best Performance by an Actor in a Play was given solely to Benedict.
They both signed my programme after I saw one of the two world premiere opening nights in February 2011 (Benedict was the Creature, Jonny was Frankenstein) but a signed sketch never came back from the theatre. I drew another one and waited until Jonny was attending a Dark Shadows premiere in Leicester Square in May 2012 and he gladly signed for me. But I couldn’t get Benedict until he was at the latest Star Trek: Into Darkness world premiere, also in Leicester Square. Amongst a real frenzy I managed to get his attention. He loved the sketch, and dedicated it for me, saying “great drawing”.
I like Danny Boyle’s style. The Lancashire born director is the most down to earth celebrity I know. In spite of a trophy cabinet including every major film gong and co-ordinating the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, he also turned down a Knighthood.
He returned to his theatrical roots in 2011 to direct Frankenstein at the National Theatre. On the opening night he signed for me. Actually there were two opening nights (World Premieres) as the two leads – Johnny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch – alternated the roles of ‘the creature’ and Dr Frankenstein.
He wore casual clothes and mingled with the minions in the Olivier Theatre foyer. I did this quick sketch and approached him. He smiled and said, “that’s great.” He was more than happy to sign it, confirming his humanity and humility. I asked him why he alternating the leads, he said, “you’ll see”.
I watched the show on the theatre monitor in the bar. Cumberbatch played the creature. If a ticket had been available I would have returned to see Miller in the same role, so I could see what Danny meant.