Martha Cohen Theatre
When an actor gets on stage and, without the aid of props, set, special effects or, even, other actors, delivers a one-man version of Hamlet, is there any other word to describe the feat than “outstanding”?
Garbed in a simple black outfit that looks like standard issue for a stage hand, Toronto-based Raoul Bhaneja acts out the Shakespearean masterpiece at breakneck pace, pausing only for a 15-minute intermission. It’s almost tiring to keep up with him and his energy.
His transitions from character to character are seamless, and he manages to delineate most of them quite successfully with changes of voice, cadence or body positioning. (I find his portrayal of Polonius and the Gravedigger particularly interesting.) Sometimes, I’ll confess, I was a bit confused as to who was talking, but that didn’t detract from the overall experience.
Bhaneja has a very interesting face that makes him particularly suited to this experiment. While some may think this a trivial point, his visage is such that he legitimately looks the part of most of these diverse roles.
Bhaneja lends an understanding to Shakespeare’s language that makes the story of Hamlet clear, even to those relatively uninitiated to the world of Shakespeare. (I wouldn’t recommend this play to someone who has no knowledge of Hamlet, however, because watching a solo version of the show could be an exercise in frustration.)
While Bhaneja’s diction is crisp, you do have to sit up and pay attention, because the lines come fast and furious and an audience has very little time to process them. This is definitely NOT something you should see while half asleep.
Frankly, with a show like this, the actor’s unbelievable accomplishment is front-and-centre in this production, rather than the story itself. For that alone, however, Hamlet (Solo) is worth seeing, because it’s probably unlike anything you’ll ever see again.