Worthing-based actor Rudi Dharmalingam is enjoying life in the media spotlight opposite Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet at London’s Barbican (until October 31).
“We have certainly had our share of media hysteria, to say the least!” says Rudi. “And that’s neither good, nor bad really. At the end of the day, this show sold out within minutes more than a year ago. I think it is the fastest-selling theatre show in British theatre history. It’s not even as if the publicity meant it was going to sell out. It had already long since sold out.
“Benedict is great. He is brilliant. He is a very, very talented actor and is very humble, but at the same time he is obviously a global superstar. He is probably the biggest British actor and one of the biggest around the world.”
As for judging his performance, Rudi is impressed: “I have not seen a production of Hamlet before. I have seen Kenneth Branagh’s film, but you can’t really compare it. Benedict is 39, and some would say he is slightly too old to be playing a university student, but he is fantastic with the language… this very heightened form of language which is very metaphorical and very lyrical, and he is great at making it relatable for a modern audience.”
Part of the point is that Benedict brings with him an audience that might not necessarily have Shakespeare as their first concern: “You have to be very aware of the fact that some people there might not ever have seen a Shakespeare before or even been to the theatre before. It’s paramount that you are creating a piece that will speak to an audience that might not have that Shakespeare experience.”
And maybe it’s that which led to a few problems at the start, a few breaches of theatrical etiquette by some members of the audience trying to film Cumberbatch on stage: “Some people didn’t quite get the fact that from a performer’s point of view, you really see the red lights of the phones in the audience, and it is very, very distracting. But that was just in the first week really.
“Benedict is very, very aware that he had a very, very big break with Sherlock, as a result of which everything changed. But he is an immensely humble guy and very approachable. He is just an ordinary guy. We are constantly working together in this. We are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, his childhood friends who essentially have been drafted in by Claudius because Hamlet is acting rather strangely around the palace. Claudius is thinking it would be a good idea to ship them in to keep an eye on him and to see if they can see what is wrong with him and cheer him up. We are working very closely with him. Working with Benedict it is very much a work in progress.”
The run at the Barbican is strictly limited, closing on October 31 because of Benedict’s commitments elsewhere. But Worthing audiences get the chance to see both Benedict and Rudi in action when the theatrical performance is screened to Worthing’s Connaught Cinema (National Theatre Live: Hamlet, Thursday, October 15, 7pm; also National Theatre Encore: Hamlet, Saturday, October 17 and Tuesday, October 20).
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