Benedict Cumberbatch may be getting heavy ink for his Hamlet at London’s Barbican Theatre. But 400 miles north in Edinburgh, Lake Highlands High School grad David Carl, 34, is playing all the roles, plus one, in his hit solo comedy Gary Busey’s One-Man Hamlet as Performed by David Carl at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
We’ve seen it. Carl makes Busey’s madness a good match for the Prince of Denmark’s. As Polonius, the one who advises “to thine own self be true,” Busey adds “and always wear a helmet.” The tour de force performance, drenched in sweat and spittle, is batshit-nuts-hilarious. Dialogue gets drowned out by the audience roaring with laughter.
As one of the shows in the largest theater fest in the world (this summer there are 3,399 shows in more than 350 venues spread across the Scottish capital), Carl’s came into the month-long run with impressive buzz and great reviews from other festivals. The Times of London, among others, named it one of the must-see shows of this year’s Fringe. Critics have heaped four- and five-star reviews on Carl since he opened August 7 in a 150-seat space called the Underbelly, and ticket sales are strong.
Using paper dolls and finger puppets (all with versions of Busey’s image on them), plus interactive video and short diversions into scenes from Busey’s roles in Lethal Weapon, The Buddy Holly Story and other films, Gary Busey’s One-Man Hamlet never mocks the star. He has, after all, dealt with traumatic brain injury from a nearly fatal motorcycle wreck. He is most familiar to UK audiences as the winner of the UK version of the Big Brother reality show. Instead, Carl mocks Shakespeare, with Busey declaring some scenes in Hamlet “non-essential,” skipping to the next. (More productions should do this.)
During a break at the Fringe, Carl, 34, talked to us as himself and, for one brief, exquisite moment, as Gary Busey.
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