Review by Bill Stephens on 'Dress Circle Sunday' (15 July 2012) on ArtSound FM
Click here to listen to the review, or read the transcript:
Frequently Asked Questions (To Be or Not to Be, etc.) is a must-see for Shakespeare lovers. Even if you're not, this play about an actor obsessed with Shakespeare's works and having a breakdown is compelling theatre.
Written by New Zealanders Natalie Medlock, Dan Musgrove and Michael Hurst, who also performs this one-person show, we witness to a frightening meltdown of an actor at a crisis point in his life. It's all the more frightening for not knowing what has triggered the situation we're witnessing. Alone in his tawdry room on the verge of suicide, the actor is like a caged tiger, pacing about, dropping in and out of various Shakespearean characters, having arguments with himself, as if he is both Macbeth and Hamlet, dealing with Othello who also drops in for a while, and becoming more and more physically violent towards himself as the play progresses.
It doesn't sound a lot of fun, I know, but it is surprisingly very funny. The crazy logic of the arguments, both with himself and the characters summoned up in his mind, is cause for great hilarity, and gives an extraordinary insight into this troubled man. You really feel for him by the end of the play.
Michael Hurst gives a towering performance in what must be a very difficult role to play. From the moment the play starts until it finishes, he sustains the intensity of a man in a deep crisis that is very real and quite alarming, and his comic timing is superb, making the most of every funny line in the show. Only an actor experienced in the classics could make this work, and Michael Hurst meets the challenges of the complex stream-of-consciousness script superbly. He also shows his physical acting abilities in the sequences where he becomes violent against himself.
All three writers (??) produce an extraordinary work. Their knowledge of Shakespeare's plays must be encyclopaedic, and they display a strong understanding of the mental state of a person in crisis as well. The director, Natalie Medlock, has done an excellent job of bringing all of the elements of the production together.
This is a very entertaining, as well as thought-provoking, evening at the theatre that you'll remember for a long time afterwards.