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March 4, 2012 | by  | in Arts Theatre | [ssba]

Some Frequently Asked Questions

Salient  Meets Michael hurst

It is with some trepidation one interviews Michael Hurst, – ONZM, actor, and director – who has previously directed episodes of both Spartacus: Blood and Sand and Hercules. He brings to Wellington a new production for the New Zealand Festival of the Arts: Frequently Asked Questions: To Be or Not To Be, Etc.

a poor player/ That struts and frets his hour upon the stage…

Frequently Asked Questions is Hurst’s first outing in a solo piece despite experience in lead roles on both stage and screen. In a solo production, however, there is “nowhere to hide” but Hurst has enjoyed the greater challenge – not to mention the greater responsibility – this project provided. In the show, play he portrays an actor “having a Shakespearean breakdown.” But don’t expect this to be solely in early-modern English; although Shakespeare is credited as one of the authors, FAQ selects choice snippets of Bill’s ramblings and combines them with newly written speech to create a “modern, stream of consciousness” production.

I am but mad north-north-west…

Hurst’s character grapples with the most vital, and visceral, of human motivations: that of our own demise. Along the way, he gets a little assistance from great tragic figures – Macbeth, Othello, King Lear – who help him “adventure into the Shakespearean after-life, or half-life” through the ever-useful art of questioning. Confronted by an end to our own existence, we begin to interrogate the larger meanings; impending death forces us to concentrate on the Frequently Asked Questions.

as thin of substance as the air / And more inconstant than the wind…

This production began life two years ago as a concept for a sole Shakespeare production in Hurst’s imagination. In the early planning stages, he engaged Natalie Medlock and Dan Musgrove – graduates of Toi Whakaari – who, with the aid of modest funding from Creative New Zealand, wrote the script. After spending around two weeks watching Hurst improvising, Medlock and Musgrove developed a small concept performance that won approval from Festival management.

I see Queen Mab hath been with you…

The team then spent the following year developing the script. After two further concentrated writing periods, Frequently Asked Questions is now playing as part of the New Zealand International Arts Festival. Hurst assures me that the production will not only entertain but will also challenge what you expect from a Shakespearean performance. And, in good Shakespearean tradition, Frequently Asked Questions blurs genres or, as Hurst put it, “is comedy and pathos.”


Frequently Asked Questions: To Be or Not To Be, etc. plays at Downstage at:

  • 9:30 pm on 2 March
  • 8:30pm on 3 March
  • 7pm 6-8 March
  • 8pm on 9-10 March
  • 2pm and 8pm on 11 March

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