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Monday, December 27, 2010

Interview: Raoul Bhaneja of Hamlet (solo)

(photo credit: Andrew Kenneth Martin)

By Estelle Rosen (CharPo Editor)
(through partnership with Upstage - Theatre on Radio)

Hamlet (solo)  being presented by Repercussion Theatre  and performed by Raoul Bhaneja will be among the plays in the Centaur Theatre WildSide Festival. First seen in Montreal in 2006 participating in The New Classical Theatre Festival, they were awarded a MECCA for Best Visiting Production.

CKUT Upstage contributor Alison Louder spoke with Raoul 
Bhaneja,  who plays 17 parts in Hamlet (solo) without costumes, props or set. Hamlet stripped down to its essence. For Raoul Bhaneja, the architecture of whatever space they’re in becomes the set.

Asked how this show has changed since touring to New York and the UK among other countries, Bhaneja replied. “Having a chance to tour the show for some 5 years, I get to know the piece better; and can better define the character. Hamlet is such a complex rich work, it’s never really done.” He’s always amazed when audience members tell him they were surprised it was funny.

In response to being asked what it’s like performing in a play so associated with death and loneliness, Bhaneja said. “When you play it for different audiences and when you feel differently at different times of your life, that can inform on presentation.”

Discussing Hamlet as very much a play about solitude, and responding to whether it’s easier to channel that solitude by virtue of a solo show, Bhaneja commented. “Hamlet works better in solo format than any other Shakespeare play. But even solo, it’s not like you’ve got some master key to figure it out. At the start of the play, the first line begins with ‘who’s there’. The rest of the play follows from that question. Who am I. What’s my reason for being here. It’s basically a humanist piece of drama.”

As Bhaneja pointed out. “The main objective is to tell the story without other things that distract.  To connect people back to story, words, language. We try to give people the sensation of what it would be like the first time they read it. Without other actors on stage, who am I is amplified. This basic essential question of Hamlet is what people relate to. Audience becomes participant without pulling them up on stage!”

Bhaneja continues. “One performance in Stratford-on-Avon, not more than 500 metres from Shakespeares’s grave, performed it for  8 people in audience. Turned out to be one of the best performances because it was just so much about the story. When  performed for 500 people, energy in room changes amazingly.”

Alison was curious what  it’s like to be directed by someone one has known for years. Raoul and Director Robert Ross Parker have known each other since high school art classes. Bhaneja said. “A Director needs to have enormous faith in the actor to direct a version of Hamlet with one person, two lighting cues, no costume changes, no sound, no set, no props. Gotta have pretty big balls when all you have is one guy, words and audience.”

Don’t miss Hamlet (solo) playing as part of WildSide Festival at Centaur Theatre Jan. 7-9.


  1. Hamlet (solo) is one of the best shows, solo or otherwise, I have ever seen. It is astounding how clear the play is and how easy it is to follow. Raoul plays the greatest role and the greatest play greatly. Highly recommended!

  2. Couldn't agree more Keir. Images remain some 4 years later. Thanks & regards. Estelle

  3. This piece does, indeed, have white-hot buzz around it. As we were assigning CharPo contributors to cover WildSide finding a reviewer for Hamlet was no problem...EVERYONE wanted to see it.


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