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From My Holiday – Art at The National Gallery, and seeing Benedict Cumberbatch in ‘Hamlet’

I spent the morning of my final full day in London at The National Gallery, located in Trafalgar Square. I had the nicest walk from the hotel to the gallery; the sky was overcast but the sun was trying its hardest to push through, and the streets were packed with people going to work or being a tourist like me, and it was just the best being a part of that hustle and bustle. I hadn’t already fallen completely in love with the city then I would have on this day.

I didn’t loiter around in Trafalgar Square for very long, as I was on a very strict time limit for sightseeing since I was off to the theatre that night, but I have to say it’s a pretty impressive place. There were loads of street performers at the front of the gallery too, including one band who played current pop songs using classical instruments – definitely take the time to stop and listen if you see them.

As it happened, there was industrial action the day I visited the gallery, which meant that there weren’t enough staff to work and a lot of the gallery was closed to the public. I didn’t have a problem with this because if you have to strike, you have to strike, and I had limited time anyway so I might not have been able to see everything. The rooms holding the big drawcards, like Monet and Van Gogh, were open, and I discovered an artist, Peter Paul Rubens, who I didn’t really know anything about before but whose work stuck firmly in my mind. The best thing about the gallery was that in the gift shop you can have a copy of any of the paintings you see on display printed for your very own. You have the option of it being printed on paper or canvas. I took advantage of this and had a Monet’s ‘Water-Lilies, Setting Sun’ printed on canvas. I’ve since had it stretched on a frame and it sits in my bedroom on a tabletop easel I bought. It looks kind of like the real deal.

When I finished up at the gallery, I wandered back to the hotel and relaxed there for a little while before I headed off to the Barbican Centre to see THE Benedict Cumberbatch in a production of ‘Hamlet’ which, if you’ll remember from all the way back here, I was very excited about.

I don’t have any photos from the performance as there was a very strict no photos policy which is understandable as I imagine that it would be very irritating for an actor on stage to be distracted by flashes going off every few minutes. I do have a photo of my ticket though to prove that I really was there, and it is accompanied by the skull necklace I picked up there, who I have named Little Yorick because I’m original like that. So what was it like?

Well, I didn’t really enjoy the production as a whole. I think my experience of seeing Shakespeare performed at The Globe has spoiled seeing it performed anywhere else. While the staging at The Globe was minimal and allowed the actors and the dialogue to really shine, I found the production at The Barbican to be almost too much. There was so much happening on stage and so many things to look at that I found myself occasionally distracted. Having since watched it again at the cinema, my initial impression remains unaltered, and I will forever be of the opinion that The Globe Is The Best.

But while I didn’t enjoy the production that much, it didn’t in any way diminish the performance of Cumberbatch; he really is as good an actor in real life as he is on-screen. There was a little bit of Sherlock in his Hamlet – that unpredictability that fans of the show love – but it made for an extra energetic Hamlet, and different from other Hamlets I’ve seen. I had been worried that my excitement of seeing one of my favourite actors on the stage would lead to disappointment, but thankfully that wasn’t the case, and I so happy that I got the chance to be in the audience. It really was a great way to end my time overseas.


  1. Pingback: From My Holiday – London at Random | bitsnbooks

  2. I’ve been waiting to hear about this since you mentioned somewhere that you weren’t too impressed by the performance. Overdone shows aren’t to my taste either.

    But I’m happy to hear that Benedict didn’t disappoint! I know I would be crushed if he wasn’t as brilliant on the stage as he is on the screen.


    • Yes I was worried he wouldn’t be as good as I hoped, but I really can’t fault him at all. All the other actors were basically cardboard compared to him – I don’t know whether that was intentional in order to enhance the madness in him, but I personally didn’t rate any of the other actors, except maybe for a couple who were in more minor roles.
      But the stage setting was definitely my biggest issue. At The Globe you could see everything from everywhere, but with this play some of it was obscured by the way they’d done the set, so if you were seating on the side (like me) you couldn’t see some of the play which I found really annoying. And in the second half there was huge piles of dirt on the stage which was meant to represent the poor state that Denmark had fallen into, but just seemed weird to me. Anyway, I saw Benedict Cumberbatch live in the flesh so I think that’s the most important thing for me to remember!


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