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Hamlet (solo) Review

April 24, 2013

For better or worse, I’ve been a lifelong fan of William Shakespeare. Despite the fact that it’s the so-called problem play, or maybe because of it, Hamlet is my favourite. I have read it countless times, and, of course, I have seen it. I have seen it on stage, I have seen it at the movies, I have seen it on television. Until now, however, I have never seen it quite like this.

By “this,” I mean Hamlet (solo), which I saw (and thoroughly enjoyed) just the other night in the Templeton Studio Cabaret at Globe Theatre, where the curtain is slowly fallingpressshot_5X7_skull on another successful season for the Shumiatcher Sandbox Series.

Performed by Raoul Bhaneja, and directed by Robert Ross Parker, the co-presentation of Hope and Hell Theatre Company (Canada) and Richard Jordan Productions (United Kingdom) attracted me first and foremost out of curiosity. Hamlet as a one-man show is a singular approach to the Bard’s greatest work, no pun intended. There’s also the sad fact that, in our city, opportunities to see Shakespeare performed live are, alas, few and far between.

But, if novelty and scarcity are what drew me to the play, what impressed me about it is the quality that Parker himself describes so succinctly when he refers to Hamlet (solo) as being both “radical/experimental and very traditional at the same time.” That’s it, exactly, the show’s drawing card and its secret to success rolled into one. In the mind’s eye, methinks that I see Will, nodding his approval. He would have insisted on “traditional” and encouraged “radical/experimental.”

What a wild roller-coaster ride this is! Two hours, in two parts, with few compromises, no omissions lamented for their absence, and an absolutely mesmerizing performance by the talented Bhaneja, whose delivery is positively riveting. Such focus. Such concentration. Such a huge commitment, and equally large responsibility, because he is carrying on his shoulders the triumvirate of character, plot, and theme. All of this with nary a pause to catch his breath as he goes from speech to speech, scene to scene, act to act.

Another observation made by Parker that I find noteworthy is his reference to “the power of simplicity.” The power, needless to say, is in the text, the words, words written by the greatest writer in the history of the English language. As for simplicity, well, in terms of production values, minimalist is putting it mildly. Bhaneja performs alone, dressed entirely in black, on a stage that is likewise painted black and completely bare except for a solitary pillar. The lighting is fixed, and there is only the hint of a soundtrack. Combine these various elements and what you have is a show that is simply powerful.

To see, or not to see? There is no question. Hamlet (solo) is strongly recommended.

Hamlet (solo) runs from April 23 – 28, 2013. Visit the Globe Theatre website for more details, cast information, and to purchase tickets.

Nick Miliokas is a freelance writer and editor based in Regina. You can reach him by email at rozenstern@rocketmail.com

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