Shooting Mr Cumberbatch…

I HAVE some sympathy with Benedict Cumberbatch over people filming his performance in Hamlet. Some days as I sit on this ledge, I can hardly see for all the blinking red lights of the camera-phones. Or phone cameras. Or whatever they are called.

The other day I nearly fell from this vertiginous perch mid-sentence thanks to an ill-timed picture taken by an admirer. Only a last-minute stiffening of the legs prevented my fall into clouds below this thin lip of rock I use to characterise my present circumstance.

Benedict has his so-called Cumberbitches who hang on his every movement and photograph it too given half a chance. I have my Cole-crowd Cuties, screaming and shouting. Some even carry banners with the slogan: “Cole Not Dole” splashed across.

We shall return to Benedict in a moment. What I have just written reminds me of something. When this blog began the intention was to record my life as a redundant person. I have just glanced back to the first one. This said: “So these jottings will chart what it feels like to be out of work for the first time.” And so they have occasionally, but there is only so often you can return to that subject. Day three: still no job yet. Day four: sorry, nothing yet, still feeling rejected… and so on.

What does it feel like now? Well, miserable but with happy glimpses of what might be. There has been some freelance work, and very welcome that has been too. And more to come. But nothing yet knits into a life. The thriller is almost written and will be sent to my agent soon, with even more fingers crossed than usual. And these jottings jot along. Half a book’s worth already if you tot up the daily scribbling. Anyone interested in publishing a Man On Ledge compendium?

Anyway, back to Benedict. The Sherlock actor and film star is in Hamlet at the Barbican in London. In greeting fans outside the theatre after an early performance, he treated them to a gracious moan. You can find a clip of his polite tirade on the BBC website and other places too no doubt (just in case any of those inveterate Beeb-bashers happen to be passing).

In this clip he says it is off-putting trying to remember his lines and get into the “Hamlet zone” (my phrase, not Benedict’s) with those red lights flashing in his eyes.

Why do people feel the need to film and photograph everything? We have forgotten how to live the moment. We don’t trust our memory of an experience. We need visible proof rather than variable memory.

So Cumberbatch’s fans will now be able to proudly show their friends fuzzy snaps of their favourite actor frowning in the dim distance as he tries to deliver some of the most famous lines in literature while people pepper him with red lights. These future spies have come to shoot him, not watch him. They are assassinating him in public for private posterity, and no doubt spoiling the experience for other members of the audience while they’re about it.

Actors are easy to characterise as loveys. It would be a doddle to mock Cumberbatch for his well-mannered strop. But why should he have to suffer fans firing off their bloody phone cameras all the time? Those lucky enough to have secured a ticket for the biggest theatrical turn of the moment should sit back and enjoy the experience. Put those cameras away and concentrate.

I know this next observation risks putting me in old fart corner. But here goes anyway. One of the downsides of mobiles phones, tablets and so on is that people don’t enjoy the present. They don’t talk to the person opposite but instead send texts to a different friend. They don’t concentrate and watch something properly as they are too busy recording it for future reference or show-offery. They don’t look with their eyes. Instead they squint through the little window on their phone.

Oh, look here. Someone’s just fired off another of those red-eye flashbulbs things at me. How’s a man supposed to sit writing on a ledge if people keep doing that?

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