It’s pretty much impossible to be a theatre enthusiast for over a decade (Torontoist started early) and not see a lot of productions of Hamlet. And sometimes we get cranky and cynical and grumble over our beer with our fellow cynical theatre school graduate chums about how it’s enough already with the freaking Hamlet, and can everyone please just stop for awhile and, say, trot out Coriolanus instead. But that’s just cynical beery grumbling. Because as Captain Obvious will tell you, Hamlet is a pretty awesome play. And for all the zillions of productions we’ve seen of it, good and bad, we have never seen one man attempt the whole enchilada all by his lonesome.
But that, dear readers, is exactly what Raoul Bhaneja (of Train 48 fame) is doing in the backspace at Theatre Passe Muraille until next weekend. This is no mean feat, and most of the time Bhaneja comes off quite well. He is a very appealing performer, charismatic and highly watchable; he pulls off the soliloquies beautifully, and often finds new humour in the old lines. But Hamlet isn’t really a one-man show, of course, and many scenes contain upwards of five characters. Bhaneja makes a valiant attempt during these busy scenes, but he isn’t helped much by the direction, and things can’t help but get a little muddy.
The risk of self-indulgence runs extremely high in a production like this one, but Bhaneja manages to keep that at bay, and simply offers up a solid performance of a classic play.
Fun Fact: The title of this post is taken from yet another adaptation of the Bard’s masterwork. In the mid-70s, Cliff Jones wrote a rock opera known as Rockabye Hamlet. With song titles like “He Got it in the Ear”, how could this have missed?
Hamlet (solo) has been extended until January 21 at the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. For tickets, call 416-504-7529.