THE STREET THEATRE: New Zealand actor Michael Hurst gives a masterful performance as a man haunted simultaneously by Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear and Othello.
New Zealand actor Michael Hurst is undoubtedly a genius at his art. Oscillating between sombre and ecstatic, deranged and prim, hilarious and soulful, all in the space of a microsecond, here is an artist who has not only mastered, but well and truly nailed his craft. In Frequently Asked Questions
, Hurst is haunted simultaneously by the dithering character of Hamlet, the arrogant Macbeth, the leering King Lear and the psychopathic Othello. Developing unique personas, mannerisms and accents for each character, Hurst captures perfectly the paradoxical anguish and obstinacy of each Shakespearean character.
The synopsis for Frequently Asked Questions is vague to the extreme. A show that ‘examines the sorts of universal questions that have plagued Shakespeare’s characters’ doesn’t really elaborate much on events. With obscure descriptions such as that, it seems fair to say that the whole saga is not intended to make a whole lot of sense. From the randomness of scenes in which Hurst fries an egg and makes himself a sandwich to a self-inflicted punch up between a taunting Macbeth (played by Hurst) and a defensive Hamlet (also played by Hurst), at times the show almost falls into the realm of stand-up comedy.
Despite some deficiencies in the script, Frequently Asked Questions is worth watching just to marvel at the degree of emotion Hurst can capture in his eyebrows, and of course, to admire how well he can wear a pair of tights. While most of the humour is derived from the irony in the crossover of Shakespearean plays, those unfamiliar with the tragedies will still be amused by Hurst’s irreverent manner and flamboyant antics.
As each of Shakespeare’s tragic characters are challenged with their own internal battle, likewise Hurst also depicts the struggle of each of the four protagonists, which ultimately leads to their demise. A sassy Scottish Macbeth is the standout as he takes great delight in ridiculing the tortured Hamlet. Playing the contrasting characters of Hamlet and Macbeth in conversation with each other brings Hurst’s talents to the fore as Hamlet attempts to rebuke Macbeth’s jibes in quick succession, resulting in a crazed eye stabbing, self-strangling, head banging round of fisticuffs.
Hurst’s performance in itself makes Frequently Asked Questions an exceptional show, though it is evident at times that the script fails to match Hurst’s talents. Regardless, Hurst delivers a uniquely contemporaneous take on Shakespeare’s tormented souls and his acting ability is masterful. Be warned, those who choose to sit in the front row: there may be some masticated sandwich and other spittage flying your way.
Rating: 3 ½ stars out of 5
Frequently Asked Questions
By Natalie Medlock and Dan Musgrove
Directed by Natalie Medlock
Starring Michael Hurst
The Street Theatre, Canberra
July 11 – 21
First published on
What the stars mean?
- Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
- Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
- Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
- Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
- Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
- Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
- Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
- One star: Awful, to be avoided
- Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level