Most comedians hate to die on stage. Patrick Hercamp does it about 8 times a show.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet traditionally lasts at least three hours, but in the Producers Garden, Hercamp bastardises it into an abridged one-man pantomime that lasts all of 20 minutes. His vaudeville comedy background (with Sound & Fury) shines in a show that hinges on his ability to bicker with himself and mime violence. It is Hamlet, after all, but the play is performed in layman’s terms; by my count only the lines “to be or not to be” and “the rest is silence” remain. The poster lies. There isn’t even a skull.
Hercamp plays the Bard himself, explaining the show to his would-be Hamlet (a participant from the audience). This move contains a little bit of genius: we don’t necessarily relate to the cartoonish thespian onstage – whose voice darts between ringing with bravado and trembling like Shaggy from Scooby Doo – but we certainly relate to his chosen prince, and this feeds into the moments where we’re encouraged to boo and hiss at the drama of it all. Audience interaction is a tough needle to thread, but Hercamp invests enough time winning the audience during his first ten minutes that the actual 20 minutes of Hamlet fly by with fun and good humour.
The show plays early in the evening, which suited the crowd well – mostly older couples, with a few nerds, high schoolers and nerdy high schoolers thrown in for good measure. Yet I couldn’t help but wonder if it’d be served by a late evening performance, too. Throw in a few drinks, run the show at 11:30, and it’d be a bit like an episode of Drunk History; you wouldn’t have to care about Shakespeare at all, just get caught under Hercamp's spell.
As it is, you won’t like this if you don’t like Shakespeare. But then, why watch a show about Shakespeare if you don’t like him? Half-hour shows are inescapably gimmicky, but Hercamp carries the gimmick with finesse and enthusiasm.