The Half (2 stars)

This article is from 2012

The Half

Backstage one-man Hamlet is a cliché-ridden indulgence

In his dressing room, an ageing, embittered thesp – divorced and teetering off the wagon – prepares to play his one-man uncut Hamlet. In the half hour before the beginners are called, he unravels and implodes.

Why did it have to be Hamlet? Had Richard Dormer plumped for any other canonical role – Willy Loman, Lear’s Fool, Eva sodding Peron – this navel-gazing soliloquy might not have seemed quite such a cliché-ridden indulgence. Instead, he ticks the tropes off one by one. There are gripes about agents, stray whisky bottles and superstition-shattering tourettes. (‘Oh God, I said Macbeth. Oh Christ, I said it again.’ And again. And again. Look where it comes again.)

Basically, Dormer hasn’t written a play so much as a routine, one that Fringe stalwart Guy Masterson clearly relishes. He’s undoubtedly charismatic with a voice that shifts from sandpaper to velvet to Velcro, but Masterson needs reigning in first, and better material second. Ultimately, it’s just too easy to imagine a play about an actor preparing to play an actor preparing to play Hamlet.

Assembly George Square, 623 3030, until 26 Aug (not 13), 2pm, £12–£14 (£10–£12).

The Half

  • 2 stars

Guy Masterson's (Stage Best Actor, 2001) 'brilliantly executed, side-achingly funny' ( new work by Richard Dormer (Stage Best Actor, 2003 - Hurricane), directed by David Calvitto (Stage Best Actor, 2002 - Horse Country). Fifty year old actor, down on luck, attempts to reverse fortunes by doing a solo…


1. Guy Masterson9 Aug 2012, 8:15am Report

Guy Masterson said...
I have read your review with interest, and felt that a little clarification is in order. I agree wholeheartedly that my performance needed reigning in. You saw an early frenetic show, too angry, embittered and unfocused. As the play teeters on the razor's edge of overindulgence, I do not doubt that you recoiled. The director was in that day and addressed these issues. They have been fixed. That is the beauty of live theatre.
Your point about picking Hamlet as the subject, however, is less valid. Firstly, the playwright picked Hamlet precisely because of the parallels with the Actor's life and the quotes from the play reflect the Actor's conundrum. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the general public can relate to Hamlet probably more than Willy Loman or Eva Peron even at the lowest level. i.e. Hamlet's basic dilemmas - procrastination, action, inaction, indecision etc. They know it from school and possibly from having been exposed to the play in some way - unlike Willy Loman. It is precisely this general knowledge that gives the general audience (not the literati) a chance to identify with the Actor and empathise with his plight - which only a few would be able to do if the play were about Willy Loman.
Finally, the play is an entertainment, first and foremost. It is a comedy and a tragedy. Yes, there are cliches in there and, guess what? The audience loves them. You, as someone that frequents theatre and writes for the theatre and about it, might wish to see another comparison, but I would think that you should really try to review the play that's there, not the play you would prefer to be there. It's like saying that a particular comedian is not funny when the audience are laughing riotously. YOU may not appreciate the jokes, but that comic clearly IS funny. You can't just say that he's crap because he's not telling the jokes you'd like to hear. In my case, this is reflected in all the other reviews that have come though so far.

2. Guy Masterson9 Aug 2012, 8:41am Report

Hi Matt. I would be very interested to know of these other plays that have compared the actor to Hamlet... Can you name some?
As the 'Justin Beiber of theatre criticism' how is it possible at your tender age to have seen so many of these similarly themed shows in order to qualify your claim that 'it is an old and familiar one the doesn't need rehashing..."
More to the point, if you knew that this theme was going to bore you, why on earth did you choose to cover it? Right there you are demonstrating an unfair bias which is surely unethical?
You will no doubt counter by telling me you didn't question the commission... But clearly you should have. If you knew it was unlikely that my production could defy your preconceptions, you should have turned it down.
Finally, this bias has resulted in a negative review with a damaging headline which does neither of us any favours. But it does hurt my potential audience.
You have a responsibility of impartiality, my friend. That is a cornerstone of criticism. (I too am a theatre reviewer.) You have stated that you were tired of similarly themed shows and you came anyway. That is not really kosher.

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