GARY BUSEY’S ONE–MAN HAMLET as performed by David Carl
Directed by Michole Biancosino
at The Underbelly, 66 Cowgate, Edinburgh
6 - 30 August at 17.50 (19.00)
What inspired this production: did you begin with an idea or a script or an object?
David Carl: Two roads came together: my love of Hamlet and my love of Busey. I've loved Hamlet since I was 16 and I've been a huge Busey fan since Under Siege. Two years ago I was cast in Point Break LIVE!, a live version of the film Point Break where someone from the audience plays Keanu Reeves. On opening night I learned how much people love Gary Busey, as they chanted his name before I even came on stage. I knew at that moment that my next solo show would be something with Gary Busey. But what? As I did my research I noticed that unlike Nick Nolte and some other of his contemporaries, he didn't have much theatre experience before doing film.
Wouldn't it be funny if Gary took on Shakespeare by himself? As some sort of bucket list adventure? And since I love Hamlet and it is the role of roles, that idea popped in pretty fast. And of course I went all the way around the barn with Lear, Midsummer, and even Winter's Tale (we're all drawn in by that silly bear aren't we?) When I mentioned the idea to Michole Biancosino, my co-creator and director, she said "Hamlet! It has to be Hamlet!" When I said the words "Gary Busey's One-Man Hamlet" out loud, I couldn't stop laughing. She was right. It's hard to explain why, but it's easy to say that it was the funniest to us. Shortly after we decided to add "as Performed by David Carl."
Why bring your work to Edinburgh?
I've been hearing about this magical festival since I was a child.
Everyone who has been here shares a quality of childlike wonder when they describe it: even if it's awe and humility from a difficult experience. I've wanted to come here for awhile and this year it feels like we have the show: mostly because a wide variety of friends and strangers who know the festival and the show said we'd be silly not to go this year.
I've only been here 3 days and I feel constantly surrounded in a blissful cloud of collective creativity. There is a palpable vibe of positivity that I felt when people described the festival. Of course it would be amazing to keep doing our show all over the world and begin that journey here, however I'm realizing quickly that every moment of our journey here in Edinburgh is the point. This place seems to exist to remind artists how expansive our possibilities are and that kind of place is invaluable.
So yes, it makes sense that I would bring a show to this magical festival with one my best friends in the world. It's my favorite project to date, so why not expose it to a massive source of positivity and inspiration?
What can the audience expect to see and feel - or even think - of your production?
The audience will see Gary Busey take on Hamlet by himself for 70 minutes. He'll use every method he sees fit to tell this story. When people talk about their experience, they almost all say that they had no idea what to expect and I really like that.
The Dramaturgy Questions
How would you explain the relevance - or otherwise - of dramaturgy within your work?
Dramaturgy was very relevant: mostly because research is the most positive way for my OCD brain to function. At the University of Evansville Diane Brewer made us all spend a semester creating a very dense and particular "dramaturgical protocol" on a play of our choosing. I chose Hamlet. It included sections like, production history, dramatic criticism and possible obstacles with producing the play. It was difficult, I'm a light hoarder, and I kept it. I was very happy when I found it 13 years later. Much of the literature surrounding Hamlet is just as funny to me as the play itself. So many people have told us what to think about Hamlet, and how play him. The variety of analysis is so wide that I'm left with a simple hypothesis: perhaps we don't really know how "it was done", nor do we know how it SHOULD be done. Who's to say that ghosts are scary? Who knows which parts were funny originally? The certainty of some of the Shakespearean scholars on Hamlet is very funny to me, and a big source of my inspiration for this project.
In terms of researching Gary Busey, that has been pure fun and in the age of the internet not difficult at all. And since I'm a little OCD I have no problem watching Gary Busey footage for hours and calling it work.
What particular traditions and influences would you acknowledge on your work - have any particular artists, or genres inspired you and do you see yourself within their tradition?
I love Mel Brooks, Mark Rylance, Samuel Beckett, and in my teens I was greatly influence by the work I saw at Kitchen Dog Theater where I grew up in Dallas, TX. For over two decades now they have taken classics and put a new spin on them and they always do an amazing job: not just a wild idea but an excellent execution. The did a circus version of Glass Menagerie that really stuck with me in a good way.
I really love Michael McKean from Spinal Tap because he brings an honesty and depth to his comedic work that really resonate with me.
Do you have a particular process of making that you could describe - where it begins, how you develop it, and whether there is any collaboration in the process?
I think it is very important to brainstorm until my idea gets me very excited on a visceral level. I have trouble starting until I have this feeling like I have to start writing or I will burst. There is so much work and money that goes into anything creative, so I like to make sure I'm actually "in love" before I make a commitment.
On this project, I collaborate with Michole Biancosino. She agreed to do it and we signed up for Peter Michael Marino's SOLOCOM at the People's Improv Theater in New York City: a solo festival with brand new works that have never been done before. We had 2 months to create something. I was on a walk in Central Park when I realized that I wanted Gary to do every scene in the play and that each scene could be a different style of performance. I love theatre of the absurd structurally, so this felt right. I started filling in each scene as the ideas came to me and then I would work on them with Michole in rehearsal. There are plenty of moments in the show that are 100 percent her idea. Sometimes I would improvise in rehearsal and many times I brought in a script. The first thing I did was sit in front of my web cam and improvise as Busey about each scene: just let him riff on what he thought was important and act it out when he felt like it. That was fun and a great way to get started. That took about 4 hours.
What do you feel the role of the audience is, in terms of making the meaning of your work?
The audience is a very exciting variable in the equation. They make it fresh every night. There are many different styles of play in the show and every audience enjoys certain parts more than others. I really love that each show is different because of the audience. This reality allows me to be in a constant state of surprise.
A Multi-Media Theatre Comedy with Puppets
Having triumphed in Celebrity Big Brother, survived Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew and battled with Meatloaf and Donald Trump, Keanu Reeves' favourite co-star now takes on his biggest challenge yet: proving that he still has the ‘acting chops’ by performing all the parts in Hamlet at the Edinburgh Fringe, with songs and home-made puppets.
Written by David Carl (after Shakespeare) and co-created and directed by Michole Biancosino. Gary Busey’s One-Man Hamlet (as imagined by David Carol) won the Outstanding Solo Performance Award at the New York Fringe in 2014.
Switching between beat poet narrator, puppeteer, musical theatre singer, action-movie director and “great” actor, Gary Busey (as imagined by David Carl) plays each scene in the style he feels appropriate. This mix of high and low-brow comedy celebrates Shakespeare’s play by proving it is still relevant, applicable and moving in the jaded, celebrity-crazy, meme-obsessed world we (and David Carl) live in.