Friday, November 15, 2013

Review: (Ottawa) Hamlet (solo)

The Lonely Melancholy Dane
by Jim Murchison

There is no set. There are no costumes. There is just one supremely talented actor in a well-directed Hamlet that wrings all manner of subtleties from the Bard’s words.

Raoul Bhaneja plays everyone in Hamlet. Just getting to the kernel of the title character could take a lifetime so imagine how many layers you can uncover playing every single character. How do you get to this level of performance and make it look almost effortless. You start workshopping it in 2002 and perform it frequently as a full scale performance since 2006. You also need a director that you trust implicitly and Robert Ross Parker fills that role. 

That this production is brilliant I don’t believe can be questioned. It is also a fascinating way to let Shakespeare’s text breathe when stripped of all the trappings. I think that every student of theatre and lover of Shakespeare will get a lot from this production. There are places where unexpected humour springs forward. You expect laughs in the scene with the grave digger. What is more of a surprise is to hear chuckles at the beginning of, “To be or not to be, that is the question.” There are laughs at the start of possibly the most famous soliloquy Shakespeare has ever written and they are not misplaced, unplanned nor unexpected.  There is so much depth to the words that a multitude of interpretations may be valid and correct given the approach of the production.

Do I think that this is a production that will appeal to everyone? No, I don’t. I have said myself that a one-person play to be totally satisfying should be engineered so that it makes the most sense to be played by one person. Hamlet was definitely meant to be an ensemble piece. And while I was watching the incredible talent of Raoul Bhaneja, I found myself thinking, God I would love to see this guy in Hamlet.

Runtime: approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission

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