Nothing rotten in this state of Denmark
This article is from 2007.
To do justice to Hamlet is no easy task, but to render the Danish play as a one man performance is almost laughable in its ambition. There is, of course, the obvious novelty value to witnessing Hamlet being performed by one man. But Hamlet Solo is far from being a quirky gimmick with the sole intention of generating a quick burst of interest.
In preparation for such a mammoth task Canadian actor Raoul Bhaneja watched 20 different productions, honing his act in the role of Laertes along the way. No amount of homework, however, could replace Bhaneja’s raw flair. In possession of a formidable talent he distils the Danish play into an intricate, unravelling argument that, through stripping back to the base components of the actor, the text and the audience, expertly harnesses the power of arguably Shakespeare’s greatest work.
Any one man production will be reliant on its star’s capacity for physicality, a task which the performer, expertly directed by Robert Ross Parker, excels at. In the hands of less skilful performers a man dancing back and forth across a stark black stage, screaming passionate injunctions to himself would seem slapstick, if not insane. Here each character, from the windbag Polonius to the crumbling Ophelia, emerges distinct and fully formed, Bhaneja breathing a life into each role that few actors could achieve with just one of them.
After the Prince has breathed his last, bodies littered across the stage in spirit if not reality, Bhaneja simply stops and calls for the lights. Almost before he can take a bow his audience have leaped from their seats in a standing ovation. The tale may be an old one but Parker and Bjaneja’s talents have injected a freshness and urgency that is as sparkling as it is appreciated.
Assembly@St George’s West, 623 3030, until 27 Aug, 11.15am, £11–£12 (£9–£10).