DEEP COVE STAGE
I HATE HAMLET
Until May 2, 1998
Barry Duffus, Director
Lisa Westerhout, Producer
Starring Shelley Adam, Graham Andrews, Jackie Bowyer, Vince Callaghan, Darien R. Edgeler and Tammy Pentecost.
Tickets & Information: (604) 929-3200
A RAUCOUS SPOOF OF SHAKESPEARE AND SPIRITS
by Roxanne Davies
If you must know, I happen to love Hamlet. One of the greatest plays that Shakespeare wrote, in fact, one of the greatest works in English literature, it contains that wonderful soliloquy "To Be Or Not To Be" which so aptly sums up the existential struggle to continue living under difficult circumstances.
So when I first heard the title of this play, I Hate Hamlet, it actually grated on my sensibility and all that I hold dear about my memories of university literature classes. But there was no need to worry. This delightful comedy pays tribute to the Bard, has an underlying serious message and has a boisterous good time in the bargain.
The show revolves around the anguish of a TV actor, Andrew Rally, (played by Darien R. Edgeler) torn between his desire to make a fortune starring in TV network fluff and tackling that thespian Everest, Hamlet, and impressing his lovely but ditzy girlfriend, Deirdre (Shelley Adam).
When Rally moves into the former apartment of the famous Shakespearean actor John Barrymore, his ghost appears and proceeds to teach the novice actor about the finer points of the Bard's masterpiece, and the difference between reaching for glory and simply settling for fame.
Fame pays more, Rally wails, but Barrymore assures him that playing Hamlet will change him forever. The ghost is obliged to succeed at making Rally into Hamlet or be trapped for all eternity with a television actor!
John Barrymore, a famous American actor, made his stage debut in 1903. He established himself as one of the outstanding actors of the day, and was renowned for his portrayal of Richard III as well as Hamlet in 1925. After Hamlet, he left the stage for a film career and dissipated his talent in alcoholism.
I HATE HAMLET swings from high comedy to mild melodrama. The first act is raucous and highly entertaining, with the actors keeping up a hectic pace of dialogue and action. There is clever stagecraft (call me naive, but I love dry ice!) and a very professional and energetic sword fight, choreographed by Nicolas Harrison, who trained as an actor and fight director at the London Academy of Performing Arts.
The six actors are more caricatures than real three dimensional figures: the angst ridden actor, the pretty, innocent girlfriend, and the gum-chewing, sassy real estate agent. But the dialogue is witty and sharp, and does not demean the intelligence of the audience.
The second act loses some of its comedic luster and takes on a slightly darker tone. But the interplay between Rally and Barrymore is good throughout. Edgeler plays the role of Andrew Rally with a slightly neurotic whine but not so great that you want to turn off. He moves with an easy energy. He plays up the sexual frustration with his sweet Deirdre who won't sleep Rally until she knows he's really the one for her.
Shelley Adam is cute and perky as Deirdre. When she asks the more worldly agent Felicia, what sex is like with a good man, the latter replies, it's great. "But what's it like with the wrong guy?" "Even better" quips the agent.
Graham Andrews as the film agent, Gary, carries off some of the more memorable lines. "Shakespeare! That's like algebra for the stage!... Shakespeare was just some English guy who can't get a series", he tells Rally to convince him his idea to play Shakespeare in the park for free is sheer folly.
Jackie Bowyer as Lillian, Rally's compassionate stage agent, plays a tender scene with Barrymore's ghost who remembers his brief love affair.Vince Callaghan as Barrymore carries the show, and actually looks very much like the famous actor. While the ghost in Hamlet speaks of revenge, this ghost cajoles, counsels and gets in some great one-liners. He plays the role with gusto, grand thespian gestures, and booming but clear diction.
I HATE HAMLET is this year's official 1998 Theatre BC Festival Entry by the Deep Cove Stage. It's a polished and professional show and I wish them well. Something may have been rotten in the state of Denmark, but the Deep Cove Stage production of this play is proof that even the most serious of Shakespeare's tragedies can be comic fodder in the right hands.
Copyright 1998 Roxanne Davies