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Rob Greig

An insider’s guide to queuing for day tickets to Benedict Cumberbatch’s ‘Hamlet’ at the Barbican

Written by
Daisy Bowie-Sell

The theatre world is all abuzz with excitement at the fact that Benedict Cumberbatch is  treading the boards as Hamlet. Tickets to Lyndsey Turner’s production at the Barbican all sold out last year, but there are still ways of getting to see the ‘Sherlock’ star in all his glory. One of those is nabbing one of the 30 day seats being sold to punters in person at the box office on the day of the performance. With the news that, on the first preview, someone began queuing up at 3pm for tickets for the following morning, I went down to see what the secrets of the day seat queue really were. Here’s what I learnt based on that one night. (NB: this is a rough guide, who really knows what other nights will be like.)

Don’t turn up at midnight.

The Barbican don’t want you to, you don’t want to, Benedict Cumberbatch doesn’t want you to. It’s a long time till the box office opens at 10.30am, and it’s not nice trying to stay awake on the streets. I got there at 11.30pm. I was the first person there and there were only three more people who arrived until around 3am.

Do get there around 4am.

On the second preview night when I queued, most people began to turn up between 4am and 5am. 5.20am was too late – there were already 15 people in the queue (there are only two tickets per person). 

Do wait, even if the queue is already 15-people-strong.

The queue for £10 day tickets turns into the queue for returns. Which basically means that you may have a chance to get returns if you stick with it. There’s no guarantee though, you will be paying more for the tickets, and you may have to queue for even longer, but it’s worth a try, right?

Do bring a photo ID.

You won’t be allowed to buy the ticket without one, unless you already have an account with the Barbican.

Do bring something comfy to sit on.

The queue is outside at the Silk Street entrance, on the concrete pavement. You will feel like a tramp.

Do bring warm clothes.

Yes it’s summer, but we don’t get heat like Dubai does. It will get cold in the middle of the night – especially for people queuing in October…

Do bring waterproofs.

It rains a lot in London.

Do bring something to do.

Oh my god, queuing is boring.

Do go with a friend.

See note above. It’s just much more fun.

Do bring drinks and snacks.

There’s very little open in the middle of the night around there. You’ll be gagging for a sandwich. Borrow your Nan’s tea flask.

Do expect to need the toilet.

But be prepared to walk around ten minutes or so to them. They are in Smithfield Market, which is open 24 hours. Make sure your queue neighbours save your place.

Do make sure your phone is charged.

It will help when looking for the toilets and is safer.

Don’t expect the Barbican to be open.

Everyone that works in that place has gone to bed. Like normal people. They will let you in as early as they can, which is around 9am.

Do chat to your fellow queue buddies.

They will be seeing the show the same night, after all. You may bump into them that evening at ‘Hamlet’! You may even make some lifelong friends!

Don’t worry about the seats.

They are good. I was first in the queue and I got good stalls tickets. The sightlines pretty much wherever you are in the Barbican Theatre aren’t bad.

Do go home and sleep all day before the show.

If you’ve got a ticket don’t go out and celebrate. It’s a three-hour play and it is Shakespeare. You will need to have slept before you see it, otherwise you will be snoring in the stalls.

Don’t use your phone during the performance.

You’ve got tickets! Hooray! Now just enjoy the show and don’t be an idiot and distract the performers while you record the whole thing.  No one will like you for it.  

Do give up.

Couldn’t get out of bed? Why don’t you just watch Cumbers at the cinema at the NT live screening of ‘Hamlet’?

Swot up with our guide to Hamlet and take a look at some pics from the production.

Or watch Benedict Cumberbatch very very politely ask you not to film him in ‘Hamlet'.

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