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Benedict Cumberbatch's plea to theater audience: Stow your cameras, phones

There's "nothing less supportive or enjoyable" than audience cell phone use during a performance, the actor told a "Hamlet" audience.
/ Source: TODAY

Benedict Cumberbatch is the latest actor to augment a plea made to audiences made before most theatrical performances: Silence and stow your cellphones already!

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 15: Presenter Chen Chen and host Benedict Cumberbatch speak during the 2015 Laureus World Sports Awards show at the Shanghai Grand Theatre on April 15, 2015 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images for Laureus)Getty Images file

Starring in a London staging of William Shakespeare's "Hamlet," the Academy Award nominee thanked fans who gathered outside the West End theater after Saturday's performance, then asked them to use "all these cameras, all these phones" to spread his message.

"I can see cameras — I can see red lights — in the auditorium," said Cumberbatch, who plays the title role in the production that opened Wednesday. "It may not be any of you here that did that, but it's blindingly obvious."

Saying he was "fine" with photographs after the show, he apologized for restarting his "Hamlet" soliloquy that begins with "To be or not to be," and cited the distraction of "a red light in about third row" of the audience.

"It's mortifying," he added, "and there's nothing less supportive or enjoyable, as an actor being onstage, than experiencing that. And I can't give you what I want to give you, which is a live performance that you will remember hopefully in your minds and brains — whether it's good, bad or indifferent — rather than on your phones."

Theater staff was expected to crack down on the bad behavior for subsequent performances, when violators would be "detected and evicted," according to Cumberbatch.

"I don't want that to happen; that's a horrible way to have to police what's a wonderful thing," added the actor, who claims he's not on social media. "So, listen, this isn't me blaming, this is just me asking to just ripple it out there in the brilliant, peaceful way that you do, with your funny electronic things."

Similarly boorish cellphone behavior has been called out recently on Broadway. Last month, two-time Tony Award winner Patti LuPone snatched a phone from the hands of a "Shows for Days" audience member LuPone said wouldn't stop texting, and endured a performance interrupted by four cellphone rings. About a week earlier, a "Hand to God" audience member climbed the stage in an effort to recharge a phone.

Follow writer Chris Serico on Twitter.