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Photo by Jon Schmitt

Fringe Review: Teaching Hamlet

By Barbara Popel on June 10, 2017

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Apt613 is trying to see every show on opening weekend of the 2017 Ottawa Fringe Festival. Read more reviews at apt613.ca/fringe.


Photo by Jon Schmitt

Photo by Jon Schmitt

Teaching Hamlet
by Keir Cutler

57 min / Comedy / G

“To be or not to be – that is not the question! Who wrote ‘To be or not to be’ – that is the question!”

Teaching Hamlet premiered at the 2011 Montreal Fringe. It was then performed at Montreal’s Centaur Theatre, and at the Winnipeg and Toronto Fringes. Now it’s Ottawa’s turn to see this intelligent, witty two-hander.

An obsessive intellectual named Joe (played by Keir Cutler, who also wrote the play) hires a pompous actor, Connor Hamilton (played by Brett Watson). Joe wants Connor to make a video affirming the theory that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, was the author of Shakespeare’s plays.

Connor is willing to perform anything for money. He says, “I’m always truthful, whether I believe it or not.” But Joe insists that Connor honestly believe the Oxfordian authorship theory, not just recite the words.

Cutler, Watson and their director, Paul Hopkins, have crafted a fine play. It’s a pleasure to see such polished work – Joe’s wordless bit of business with a camera tripod, his outrageous flattery of Connor (“the best Hamlet since Olivier”), the witty thrust and parry of their negotiations, the effortless interweaving of famous lines from Shakespeare into their dialogue. Cutler is completely credible as Joe, the well-read crackpot. Watson shines as Connor, the self-centred but insecure thespian.

And it’s a pleasure to recall some of their lines. I particularly liked Joe’s twisted assertion that you “start with theory then select facts to prove the theory.” He also claims that the Oxfordian Chapter’s Board “has no sense of humour. That’s why they’re the Board.” For those of us who have been on volunteer boards, this resonates.

After seeing Teaching Hamlet, you just might begin to question the received wisdom about Shakespeare.

Get your tickets early, as I predict this show will soon be sold out; it was almost sold out on opening night.


Teaching Hamlet by Keir Cutler is playing at Studio Léonard-Beaulne (135 Séraphin-Marion) until Sunday June 18, 2017. Tickets cost $12 online and at the door. Visit ottawafringe.com for the show schedule and box office info.


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