Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet

English majors had the exclusive opportunity to view an exclusive screening of Hamlet last Thursday.

The LMU English department organized for students to view the Barbican Theatre’s latest production of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” starring British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, at the Cinemark Playa Vista movie theater this past Thursday, Oct. 15.

One hundred thousand tickets for this 12-week run at the Barbican Theatre in London went on sale last year and sold out in a matter of minutes. Cumberbatch fans around the world were distraught over their missed opportunity to see “The Imitation Game” star perform the classic role, myself included.

Then the LMU English department came to the rescue.

The screening was made possible through National Theatre Live (NT Live), the initiative of the Royal National Theatre in London, to broadcast its famous productions live via satellite to theaters across the world. Dr. Kelly Younger, a professor in the English department, saw this screening as an opportunity for English students to see a world-class performance live. He appealed to LMU to have tickets funded for students, which allowed students to attend – free of charge.

I heard about the opportunity through the LMU English department Facebook page and as soon as I heard about it, I had to go get a free ticket.

Another English student who was drawn to the event was senior English major Naz Ekimyan, who said, “I feel like no matter how many times you see a performance of a Shakespeare play, it feels like the first time when you watch another one. This performance in particular did things I’ve never seen executed so well.”

The National Theatre’s productions are always of a high caliber, but this performance in particular stood out to me. Its creative use of grand cinematic effects in both set design and sound heighten the action, lending gravitas to the famous dialogue. But, most importantly, I’ve never seen an actor depict Shakespearian language in such a concise, effective 21st century manner. Even those inexperienced in decoding Shakespeare’s language would be at ease watching Cumberbatch’s performance.

This opportunity to see the play was especially important due to Cumberbatch’s pleading that the performance not be filmed by audience members.

After one of Cumberbatch’s first performances as Hamlet, he told onlookers that it was “mortifying” that he could see devices in the audience recording him during his performance. He told fans outside a stage door, “I can’t give you what I want to give you, which is a live performance that you’ll remember, hopefully, in your minds and brains whether it’s good, bad or indifferent, rather than on your phones.” 

It is a sad truth in theatre that, oftentimes, you can find video recordings of performances online with a simple Google search. Piracy and illegal recording run rampant in the theatre world, but these fuzzy, incognito videos rarely capture the pure beauty of the passion and love that goes into performance. The NT Live experience offers a rare opportunity for theatre fans around the world to see these performances, while still maintaining the magic of live-action productions.

“The only thing that could have possibly made it better was if we were seeing Benedict Cumberbatch perform live,” Ekimyan said.

This sort of off-campus opportunity also speaks to LMU’s interest in exciting, comprehensive education.

Senior English major Morgan Cavanaugh lauded the English department for this opportunity:

“I think it’s a treat to get to watch the the famed Benedict Cumberbatch perform as Hamlet, as it’s an opportunity I doubt I’d get to experience otherwise,” Cavanaugh said. “Getting to see Benedict Cumberbatch for free was an even bigger treat, and I believe it’s a testament to LMU’s love of the liberal arts that they allow their students these opportunities to quench their thirst for knowledge outside of the classroom.”

At LMU, we have opportunities that most other schools are not financially capable of providing. Make sure to take advantage of them — especially if they involve Benedict Cumberbatch.

This is the opinion of Kelsey Mangan, a senior English major from San Jose, California. Tweet comments to @LALoyolan or email

Kelsey Mangan is a senior English major and an advocate for the Oxford Comma. You can find her writing, reading, or eating power berries. Talk to her about dogs (please).

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