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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Review: Teaching Hamlet (Fringe 2011)

Reviewed by Gaëtan L. Charlebois

I have been a fan of Keir Cutler's solos for a long time (perhaps, even, since the first). The gentleman had truly mastered the form and has been recognized across the continent for doing so. But as I mentioned in a recent review, I am getting slightly tired of the solo as a staple of the Fringe and - poof! - Cutler shows up at this edition of the festival with a two-hander. This is a self-contained one-act play which relies on a good story and—especially—the give and take of solid actors who can fill the space and Cutler has found himself a hell of an accomplice in Brett Watson. The piece now is not so much about the writing but about how well these two play together.

An actor shows up to make a video for a society devoted to the message that Shakespeare did not write his plays. The amount to be payed: $10,000. The actor is greeted as, "The greatest Hamlet since Olivier." Everything is dandy until the dynamics start to shift. First: it's not so much a "society" as a cult. Second: the actor needs the money badly. Watson, whose character has the fuller register, plays every note in a stunning tour de force. Cutler wisely leaves space for his story and the inevitable melt-down. Repercussion AD Paul Hopkins' direction is sleight-of-hand.

Like all of Cutler's works, this one does not for a second overstay its welcome. What needs to happen is the script being honed to lethal sharpness with more of its ideas shared clearly. It's a play that holds the promise of importance.

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