The Shakespeare authorship question. In this work, a companion piece to last year’s Shakespeare Crackpot, Creator/Performer Keir Cutler, playing an Oxfordian chapter Head stages a high-stakes video shoot with Brett Watson’s “renowned Shakespearean actor,” to strike a blow at the heart of the “Stratfordian” menace.

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If you’re unfamiliar with the idea of the debate around the true authorship of the works of the man known as William Shakespeare, there is a whole rabbit hole of the internet for you to explore, but it basically amounts to the idea that someone other than the man from Stratford upon Avon is secretly the great playwright. There’s not a lot of scholarly support for this idea, but, as Cutler suggests in this play, perhaps that’s all part of the “Stratfordian conspiracy.”

The play itself reveals ever-escalating levels of stakes and deception for the two characters, each of whom attempts to manipulate the other into doing his bidding.

This play is a pretty straightforward well-made, realist, piece in terms of its staging and plot, not taking any chances in terms of design or content. Inherently a safe piece, the script does unearth a sliver of human truth in the interactions between the opportunistic actor and the earnest Oxfordian, when we discover the lengths to which people will go to achieve their ends, both in terms of self-delusion and avarice.

Cutler’s performance of the Oxfordian is over the top, portraying him as a sort of well-meaning buffoon, naive in the ways of the world. It certainly makes a contrast to Watson’s the actor-playing-an-actor-not-acting. The problem is that this portrayal feels sarcastic, ass though he doesn’t quite take himself seriously, and forces the audience’s hand by telling us how we’re meant to feel about this man and his ideas, without allowing us to figure it out for ourselves. Rather than drawing us into the piece then, it distances from it, because the person we are watching doesn’t seem quite real.

As for the material itself, the script is sharp and well-crafted – all the turns of the characters are supported by what’s come before, and there are some humorous moments peppered throughout. Though I imagine a more earnest take on the central character would draw bigger laughs out of the jokes. Teaching Hamlet is a well-crafted piece of realist drama.

Teaching Hamlet

Created by Keir Cutler
Produced by Doctor Keir Co
Performed by Keir Cutler & Brett Watson
Directed by Paul Hopkins

Studio Léonard Beaulne
Saturday, June 17 3:00pm
Sunday, June 18 8:00pm

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