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5 tips for first time theatregoers going to watch Cumberbatch in Hamlet

We want you, and those around you, to have a great time

We've all been to the theatre for the first time once. Even the most seasoned theatregoer can't profess to knowing exactly how to conduct themselves on their first visit, so - without adding it to the curriculum - how can we expect Joe Bloggs and Jane Doe to instinctively understand the do's and don'ts of the unwritten theatre etiquette.

The answer is, you can't. But what we can do is politely inform them of what is appreciated in the theatre, and what is not. If you are one of the many legions of Benedict Cumberbatch fans reading this before heading off to the Barbican for your first taste of theatre, let alone Shakespeare, welcome to what we hope will be the start of a lifelong enjoyment of a new art form for you.

The 5 tips below are not meant to patronise, but offer advice to those worried about heading to the theatre for the first time:

1. Phones

If you managed to catch footage of Glastonbury (or were lucky enough to actually be there), one thing that would have been obvious is that people don't seem to watch concerts anymore. Rather they prefer to stand in front of the stage and film them on their phones, perhaps in the hope that their footage will go viral on YouTube, maybe just to preserve that moment to share with their Grandkids that they were there when Kanye West bombed in 2015.

Whatever the reason behind people's increasing tendency to record rather than actually watch, we'd suggest that you will have an overwhelmingly greater experience if you switch your phones off and forget they existed for a little over three hours. Getting lost in the theatre is a huge part of the occasion. No work emails, no anxiety over how many likes you have on your latest instagram post. Nothing else exists apart from the world that's being created for you right there in front of you.

If you want pictures of Benedict and Co. then the producers have already released rehearsal shots and very soon will release production shots taken by a professional photographer that will be so much better than any you can take at the back of the stalls on your phone's 8MP camera.

2. Food

There's some cracking places to eat around the Barbican including two newly opened restaurants on site: The Barbican Kitchen is an open kitchen serving Wood-fired pizzas, hot meat sandwiches and hot specials. The Bonfire Restaurant menu includes burgers, chicken, shakes and salads. According to their website 'highlights include the smokie burger, classic cob salad and an array of mouth-watering pies'.

So with so much on offer pre and post-show, please don't take food into the auditorium. If you need a sugar fix to keep you going, then anything without a pesky wrapper is ideal.

3. Talking

Unlike Tom Cruise's latest Mission Impossible currently booming into cinemas around the world, Bendy doesn't have the luxury of Dolby Surround Sound speakers.

The actors performing on stage have worked hard to develop their ability to project their voices, so that you can properly savour the 'to be or not to be' and 'perchance to dream' moments. For the sake of others around you, please don't talk during the play.

There's a 20 minute interval, so save any burning questions you have about the play until then. And don't worry, it's natural not to understand Shakespearean language straight away, but trust us, you'll pick it up in no time at all - as long as you're not busy asking your mate what Polonius means by "Brevity is the soul of wit."

4. Taking your seat

You know when you turn up to the Odeon (other Cinemas available) for the 9pm showing of Fifty Shades of Grey but it doesn't actually start until 9:20pm following 20 minutes of adverts? Well, you'll be glad to hear that this doesn't happen in the theatre (yet). The time on your ticket - 7.15pm for evening performances and 1.30pm for matinees - is the time Bernardo (Dan Parr) will enter the stage and ask "Who's There?" - it would be rather embarrassing for you and disruptive for others if you weren't.

Be on time, both at the start and after the interval, and you will ensure that you won't miss a single iambic pentameter (which, BTW, is worth looking up before you see the show).

5. Enjoy the show

There really is not much more to it than that. Don't be scared of the theatre, it really is a magical thing that most people become addicted to after their first visit. The smell of the auditorium, the overpriced ice creams, the shivers down your spine when the actors get that defining moment spot on, every aspect of your trip will be memorable, just make sure those memories are good ones, and not of someone tapping you on the back to turn off your phone.


TL/DR: Please don't distract those around you and enjoy the show!
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