Downstage Theatre, Wellington

16/05/2013 - 01/06/2013

The Basement, Auckland

04/06/2013 - 15/06/2013

Assembly, Roxy, Edinburgh, Scotland

09/08/2013 - 26/08/2013

Fortune Theatre, Dunedin

15/10/2014 - 18/10/2014

Titirangi Theatre, Lopdell House, Auckland

16/09/2016 - 17/09/2016

ARTWORKS, 2 Korora Rd, Oneroa, Waiheke Island

23/09/2016 - 24/09/2016

Pacific Crystal Palace Spiegeltent, Havelock North Village Green, Havelock North

10/10/2016 - 10/10/2016

Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, University of Waikato, Hamilton

29/07/2018 - 29/07/2018

16th Avenue Theatre, 174 16th Ave, Tauranga

05/08/2018 - 05/08/2018

Hannah Playhouse, Cnr Courtenay Place & Cambridge Terrace, Wellington

11/08/2018 - 11/08/2018

Edinburgh Fringe 2013

Dunedin Arts Festival 2014

Hawkes Bay Arts Festival 2016


Production Details


Michael Hurst first performed at Downstage back in 1988, in the early stages of a career in theatre, film and television as an actor, director, writer and more. Many people got to know him as sidekick and comic foil Iolaus in the NZ-made, US TV show Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Along the way he has become a recognised authority on performing Shakespeare, and an expert in stage combat technique. 

Natalie Medlock and Dan Musgrove are a young writing team specialising in eccentric, offbeat comedies. Mixing surrealism and dark-tinged satire they are part of a new wave of indie theatre writing.

Both are also established screen actors, with Dan playing the lead in the miniseries Underbelly: Land of the Long Green Cloud, and Natalie known for her role as Jill Kingsbury on Shortland Street, as well as The Almighty Johnsons and Auckland Daze.   

This exciting creative collaboration led to No Holds Bard being offered a place in Downstage’s Independent Season.  Hurst’s remarkable stagecraft alongside the distinct comic vision of Medlock & Musgrove has created a show that has won praise from critics on both sides of the Tasman. Outrageously funny and psychologically insightful, No Holds Bard is a contemporary take on Shakespeare that can satisfy traditionalists and iconoclasts alike.

In one hour, alone on stage, Hurst conjures multiple Shakespearean heroes – characterised as you’ve never seen them before – as the most famous of them all, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, tries to summon the courage to be or…to take the other option. All this builds to an unforgettable battle sequence in which Hurst unleashes 30 years of stage combat experience… on himself.

CRITICAL PRAISE [note: previous seasons have been entitled Frequently Asked Questions: To Be or Not To Be and Bard Day’s Night:

“brilliant timing, stunning slapstick pratfalls, hilarious parody and knockabout characterization” – Canberra Times 

“mangling the text as Shakespeare would have wanted, eating it up, chewing it roundly, spitting it out with venom, passion, anger, lust and love” – 

“Michael Hurst is undoubtedly a genius at his art. Oscillating between sombre and ecstatic, deranged and prim, hilarious and soulful, all in the space of a microsecond” – ArtsHub Australia

“he can also turn the comedy on a sixpence…as he releases the emotional power of the poetry” – Dominion Post


The Dominion Post Season
Downstage Theatre
16 MAY – 1 JUN
Tues/Wed at 6:30pm, Thurs – Sat at 8:00pm
Adult: $46 /Group 6+: $40 /Concession: $39 /Student: $25
Book at our box office on: (04) 801 6946
Meet the Artists: Tue 21 May – post-show  

The Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave
From June 4th to 15th.
Mon-Tues – 7pm
Wed-Sat – 8pm
Sat Matinee – 2pmTickets from $25
from or 09 361 1000.


No Holds Bard »

9 – 26 AUGUST 2013
Assemby Roxy
12:30, 1hr 10 mins

“a tsunami of a performance …A breath of fresh Shakespeare air and a comedic head-bashing all in one!” Edinburgh Spotlight

Arts Festival Dunedin 2014 

No Holds Bard is an outrageous and, at times, profound view into one actor’s attempt at self-destruction. The Festival brings you celebrated New Zealand actor and director, Michael Hurst in an adventure in the Shakespearian afterlife. He has created an extraordinary piece of physical theatre featuring tights, schizophrenia and blank verse.

No Holds Bard has enjoyed sell-out seasons throughout New Zealand and had a triumphant season at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival. For four nights at the Fortune Theatre this show will be exhilarating, brilliant, deranged, soulful and hilarious.

Fortune Theatre
Wed 15 – Sat 18 October 2014
8pm, 1hr 15mins 


Titirangi Theatre, Lopdell House at 418 Titirangi Road,
Friday 16 & Saturday 17 September 2016, 7.30pm

Artworks Community Theatre, 2 Korora Road, Oneroa, Waiheke Island,
Friday 23 & Saturday 25 September 2016, 7.30pm 

Hawkes Bay Arts Festival 2016
Pacific Crystal Palace Spiegeltent 
Mon Oct 10th
Adult:  $45 
Premier Adult:  $55 
Concession:  $39 
Premier Concession:  $49 

Michael Hurst tours with AOTNZ 29 July–31 Aug 2018

Ticket includes a 30 minutes Q and A with Michael Hurst after the performance.

“….a well-crafted, clever, uproariously funny and ultimately moving journey…smart and witty script…belly laughs of sheer delight…there’s so much to enjoy here that it is hard to choose highlights.” – Theatreview


Sunday 29 July 5pm Hamilton
Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, University of Waikato
$25, Concessions $20, Students $10
Book:  0800 383 5200, Academy Box office via Gate 1, Knighton Rd

Wednesday 1 August 7.30pm Kauaeranga Hall
Kauaeranga Hall
Door $22, Pre-book $20
021 912 993  or at Lotus Realm Thames

Thursday 2 August 7.30pm Coromandel
Hauraki House Theatre
$20 Book:  Harcourts Coromandel

Friday 3 August 7pm Whitianga
Whitianga Town Hall
Adults $25, Youth $10
Book:  Paper Plus Whitianga

Saturday 4 August 7.30pm Paeroa
Paeroa Little Theatre
$25 Book:  Positive Paeroa or Arkwrights Antiques

Sunday 5 August 7.30pm Tauranga 
16th Avenue Theatre
Adult $24.90, Seniors $22, Child under18 $15

Wednesday 8 August 7.30pm Gisborne
The Dome PBC
$30 Book:  The Aviary

Thursday 9 August 7.30pm Taupo
The Playhouse
$25 Book:  Trybooking

Friday 10 August 8pm Norsewood
The Old Dairy Factory
$20  On the door

Saturday 11 August 7.30pm Wellington
Hannah Playhouse  

Sunday 12 August 7.30pm Picton
Picton Little Theatre
$25 Book:  Take Note Picton and Alyssums Blenheim

Tuesday 14 August 7.30 Theatre Nelson
Ghost Light Theatre
$20 Book: 

Wednesday 15 August 7.30pm Takaka 
The Village Theatre
$25 and $20 Book:  Pohutakawa Gallery 

Thursday 16 August 7.30pm Hokitika 
Old Lodge Theatre
$20 Book:  Hokitika’s Regent Theatre

Friday 17 August 8pm Christchurch 
Gloucester Room Isaac Theatre Royal
Adult $35, Subscribers/concessions $30
Booking fees apply. Book:

Saturday 18 August 7.30pm Ashburton
Ashburton Trust Event Centre
‘Open Hat’ No charge prior to the event

Sunday 19 August 7pm Geraldine
The Lodge Theatre $25 Book:  LOUK Clothing (No EFTPOS)

Monday 20 August 7.30pm Oamaru
Whitestone Contracting Auditorium
Opera House
$20-$25 plus booking fees
Book: Ticketdirect and Oamaru Opera House

Tuesday 21 August 7.30pm Alexandra
The Cellar Door
Adult $25, Gold Card $20, Student $10 

Wednesday 22 August 7pm Roxburgh
Town Hall
$20 Book: i-Site and door sales

Thursday 23 August 7.30pm Arrowtown
Athenaeum Hall
$25 book:  Eventfinda

Friday 24 August 7.30pm  Invercargill
SIT Centre Stage Theatre
Pre-sales $25, Door sales $35
(service fee applies)

Saturday 25 August 7.30pm Twizel
Events Centre
Adult $25, Student $10
Book: Twizel Information Centre

Tuesday 28 August 7pm Opunake
Opunake Players
17 Layard Street $10

Wednesday 29 August 7.30pm New Plymouth
4th Wall Theatre
Adult $35, Seniors $28, Student $20

Friday 31 August 7.30pm Whangarei
The Riverbank Centre
$30 Book:
And Storytime Reyburn House Lane

Arts On Tour NZ (AOTNZ) organises tours of outstanding New Zealand performers to rural and smaller centres in New Zealand. The trust receives funding from Creative New Zealand as well as support from Central Lakes Trust, Community Trust of Southland, Interislander, Otago Community Trust, Rata Foundation and the Southern Trust. AOTNZ liaises with local arts councils, repertory theatres and community groups to bring the best of musical and theatrical talent to country districts. The AOTNZ programme is environmentally sustainable – artists travel to their audiences rather than the reverse. 

Theatre , Solo ,

1hr 15mins

Cleverly written and performed with consummate skill

Review by Margaret Austin 13th Aug 2018

Being a bit of a linguist, I delight in the title of this show – a pun of which Shakespeare himself would have been proud.

Quite what would have been Shakespeare’s reaction to the performance that follows – Laureate Award winner Michael Hurst’s solo take on a 60 year old desperate male’s crisis – we’ll never know.

But the first night audience at the Hannah Playhouse is undeterred by what the bard might have said, being more intent on making some kind of sense of a black bewigged, black velvet-clad character (costume authentically Elizabethan) who’s just been subjected to a female tirade – evidently his unfaithful wife – demanding, as such women do, her keys back.

Our beleaguered thespian spends the rest of his 75 minutes onstage attempting to come to terms with both the woman’s goading and the glaring fact that as a 60 year old actor, certain facts must be faced.

He employs the characters and thoughts of the major figures in four of Shakespeare’s most well-known plays, seeking from them advice for his situation.

He gets it, but in forms and doses that don’t necessarily alleviate his pain, but exacerbate it.

There’s Macbeth, with an admirably authentic Scottish accent, a dithering Hamlet, a know-it-all Lear and an impassioned Othello. There’s also the familiarity of lines we all know that lose none of their power because they’re interspersed, often hilariously, with modern expressions and expletives.  

The effect is surprising, bemusing, sometimes disconcerting. The interruptions of the bard’s monologue by the demanding female voice arouse our sympathy. She wants those keys back, and she wants her things as well. It almost sounds like harassment.

The audience sits absorbed, often silent. The meaning and interpretation of silence is a point of discussion in the enlightening Q and A session that Hurst offers us after the performance. For me, this is almost more fascinating than the show – we learn about the challenging intimacy of some of the acting spots Hurst has had to deal with, the importance of consonants in his delivery, and that the set, furniture and props need to fit into a Corolla.” The carpet’s seen it all,” he says wryly.

Perhaps the most telling comment on the performance comes from a youngish man who finds its message a compelling reflection on the current mental health of men.

This may not have been Hurst’s intention in creating such a piece, but it is surely a thought-provoking side-effect.

Cleverly written and performed with consummate skill, No Holds Bard is a theatrical delight. I reckon Shakespeare would have loved it.


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Excites and delights

Review by Matthew Roderick 06th Aug 2018

Hark … Hark? … HARK!  

The superb Michael Hurst brings his exuberant, touching, hilariously clever one-man play bursting on to the stage at 16th Avenue Theatre in Tauranga.  

With a 40 year-plus career brimming with quality performances and direction of some of the Bard’s greatest plays it is an absolute pleasure to brave the wet to experience this exhilarating addition.

Hurst certainly delivers. The accomplished performer takes us on a rip-roaring journey through the chaos which makes up the tumultuous contemplations of an ageing thespian.

The subject of the piece is hounded by some of Shakespeare’s most troubled minds: a quizzical Hamlet who is overthinking so much he is “just not feeling it”; a down-to-earth, gloriously foul-mouthed Glaswegian MacBeth; an eccentric old Lear; a beautifully sonorous Othello – yes Othello.

We are witness to one of the most intelligent physical performances for which Hurst is well known. His delivery is exquisite and the magnificent one-man fight scenes highlight the expertise of his physical craft.

The play itself centres on the troubles of an actor; an actor struggling to come to terms with a broken marriage and the realisation that the failed season of Hamlet starring a 60 year old man is heralding the end of his career. 

First Hamlet himself, then MacBeth, Lear and finally Othello are used to explore the complexities of the mind of such an actor and we experience a full range of emotions from Hurst.

The wonderful delivery and clever juxtapositions throughout the well-written script (by Michael Hurst, Natalie Medlock and Dan Musgrove) excites and delights, proving that this 26-date tour is one not to be missed. It is fabulous to see Arts on Tour New Zealand supporting art such as this and taking it around the country to educate and entertain. 

Stick around for the Q&A at the end of the show when Hurst expands on details of the play’s workshopping and answers those questions which have been bugging you about his life with the Bard. 


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Really clever writing; wonderful, accomplished performance

Review by Cate Prestidge 31st Jul 2018

“Do you know what happens to old actors? Nothing. They’re still acting.”

On a wet and wild Waikato Sunday, it’s great to escape for some pre-dinner theatre starring one of New Zealand’s most highly acclaimed actors. Michael Hurst has been performing for over 40 years and has a well-established reputation for innovative interpretation of Shakespeare. The chance to see him tackle “four of Shakespeare’s greatest creations” – Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello and King Lear – over the course of an hour in No Holds Bard is too good to miss. I’m not alone, the theatre is packed and the audience are in a responsive mood from the start.

The premise is set as ageing thespian Michael, bruised from a broken marriage and fresh from a failed season of Hamlet, teeters somewhat madly on the edge while his disappointments loom up behind, threatening to give him a final shove.

Hurst is powerful from the opening moments, his character’s chaotic thought processes matched by energetic movement around the messy bedsit set. Hamlet, who’s ‘just not feeling it’ at the moment, appears and tries to make meaning for himself by recounting his day: Who did I talk to? What did I say? What happened next? Was it real? The word play strikes me as having a stand-up comedy vibe with repetition of ideas, names and words building towards punchlines.

Macbeth arrives, full of foul mouthed Scottish bar room banter and bravado, and the interplay between characters ramps up as Hurst switches between them, expert with voice, stride and expression. His attempts to encourage by shouting “Don’t think about it Hamlet!” get a belly laugh from our row and he compounds his unhelpfulness by reading aloud the recent terrible show review interspersed with sweary sledging.

He’s that friend who turns up unannounced, uses your stuff, stays too long and picks fights. His not-so-gentle goading leads to one of the most glorious and funny one man fight scenes I’ve seen – incredible physicality from Hurst, awesome use of the set and great fun to watch.

King Lear makes a mad, hungry appearance and so do some famous lines, re-contextualised and interspersed with observation and pathos. When Othello, somewhat self-important and ponderous, makes pronouncements and offers opinions before descending into despair, there are some great juxtapositions of language as our hero interrupts, asking ‘How is this helping me?’

It’s a really clever piece of writing and a wonderful, accomplished performance. A short review cannot do the complex script full justice, and I feel like I’d like to see it all again as it is packed with ideas, some of which unfold a little too fast for me in places. It is definitely worth getting your head around the 4 characters and some of the major speeches in the plays if you haven’t already.  You’re in safe hands with Hurst, who will entertain you with his dynamic performance but you’ll get more out of the show with some prior knowledge.

This is the start of a 26 date tour over the next month and (not for the first time) do I send up a thanks to the Arts on Tour NZ Trust for supporting these works to tour around the country.

At the end of the show Hurst joins the audience for a Q & A as part of the show, well worth hanging around for if you can. 


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Extraordinary, mesmerising, striking

Review by Karen Beaumont 11th Oct 2016

The standing ovation at the end of this fluent, intense performance sums up what, for tonight’s audience, has been a moving, thought-provoking contemplation of who we are and the tragic flaw that is man; a flaw that in the world of Shakespeare means “Everyone dies at the end.”

Written by Michael Hurst, Natalie Medlock and Dan Musgrove, this multi-layered, original script masterfully weaves the lives of the tormented four – Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear and Othello – into a fast, frenzied web of self-torment and speculation. Hurst plays an aging Thespian actor who, haunted by the characters whose lives he plays out nightly, is contemplating whether it is better “to be, or not to be.”

Built around lines lifted directly from Shakespeare, lines that are manipulated and new material, this is a formidable piece of theatre. Hurst sustains the fine line between tragedy and comedy throughout: a delicate balance of life, optimism and adversity waiting in the wings.

There are plenty of in-jokes that demand a knowledge of the plays, and a corresponding measure that don’t, so there is something for everyone here. Irreverent comic moments struggle with the darker, inner demons of each character. Of the four, Hamlet and Macbeth are the stars. Particularly impressive is their shared soliloquy, a verbal duet that is an extraordinary, unravelling of the misfortune that is Hamlet.  

Hurst’s performance is mesmerising as he transitions seamlessly between characters, switching voice, mannerisms and body posture fluidly. The unrelenting pace and physicality is exhausting, and recognition is due to Glen Levy’s stunt design. Hurst grappling and fighting himself as Hamlet and Macbeth battle it out is a striking moment that defines his craftsmanship as an actor.

Sean Lynch’s lighting design is subtly simple. Grotesque shadows stalk across the curtains, emphasising the physicality of the characters and up-lit ghostly faces haunt the more surreal moments. Although not so attendant upon the stage, Lear and Othello are equally as strong. Othello’s singularly larger than life presence commands attention and Lear’s woeful pleas are justifiably cringe worthy.

No Holds Bard is an opportunity for all to reconnect with the Bard himself and the legacy he left behind. It is also a worthy confirmation of “What a piece of work is [this] man” and the Arts Festival organisers are to be credited for bringing such a rare talent to Havelock North. Thanks must go to the sponsors and long may such support continue to ensure the longevity of the Spiegeltent, and the magic that exists beneath its canvas.


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Virtuoso slapstick and hilarity exposes very human vulnerability

Review by Leigh Sykes 17th Sep 2016

The theatre website asks us, “Do you know what happens to old actors?” and then gives us the answer: “Nothing. They’re still acting.” The ‘aging thespian’ at the centre of this show is “driven to the brink by the infidelity of his wife and a lack of acting opportunities” so that he “confronts his demons in what he hopes will be a final ‘dark night of the soul’.”

The Titirangi theatre is full to bursting as the audience waits to see what form this dark night of the soul takes. What we are treated to is Michael Hurst in exhilarating form taking us on a well-crafted, clever, uproariously funny and ultimately moving journey through one man’s despair via four of Shakespeare’s best known characters.

The script (written by Hurst, Natalie Medlock and Dan Musgrove) does a deft job of appealing to both Shakespeare aficionados and newcomers, where an intimate knowledge of the plays pays dividends in appreciating the depth of the smart and witty script, but is not a pre-requisite to enjoying this performance.

The central character grabs the audience’s attention from the get-go and takes them on a wild ride, interweaving the Shakespearean and the modern, and allowing for many laugh-out-loud moments where some knowledge of the plays connects with the character’s situation to great effect.

The thespian is obviously in a desperate situation as the lights come up and an answerphone message interrupts him. He speaks to us directly, in the same way that Shakespeare’s characters address the audience, asking for our help in understanding the situation he is in since he has “of late – but wherefore [he knows] not – lost all [his] mirth.” Hurst has the audience in the palm of his hand in this opening section, as he tries to understand where he is, who he is and why on earth he’s wearing tights.

The laughs come thick and fast, some from in-jokes aimed at those with a detailed knowledge of Hamlet, and others created by Hurst’s high energy playing. When the thespian/Hamlet tries to figure out his place in the world and retrace the events of his day, the audacity of letting the audience see the craft of playing is rewarded by belly laughs of sheer delight.

It is also in this section that we glimpse one possible cause of the actor’s distress, as he tries to unravel his purpose in his play/life. He knows that one purpose as Hamlet is to ‘hark’ and respond to sounds such as drums or lovers, but ‘real’ life intrudes into the play world in the shape of a memory of seeming infidelity that is then revisited at various points in the play.

At this point, Macbeth barges into the story, trailing violence and mayhem behind him. This Macbeth is fierce, foul-mouthed, funny, and very Scottish with a great line in workplace stories. From here on in, Hurst is able to slip between roles effortlessly, conversing and interacting with himself, with precise and fluid changes of physicality and voice. Macbeth is a force of nature, mocking Hamlet about his clothing, his indecisiveness and debating “to be or not to be” with him.

This abrasive and abusive Macbeth is an audience favourite as he revels in the fact that he can’t be killed while taking over Hamlet’s space completely. I particularly love his suggestion that Hamlet would be a much more interesting play with him in it, and his keenness to fight every other character leads to some wonderful physical fireworks.

It is to Hurst’s eternal credit that by the time Macbeth decides to re-enter the fray of his own play, we are able to empathise with this flawed, apprehensive and ultimately human creation, as he courageously and knowingly faces the death that he cannot avoid despite all of his confidence and bluster. 

In fact, there’s so much to enjoy here that it’s hard to choose highlights, although Othello’s interactions with ‘the girls’ and King Lear’s desperation for a sandwich are highly entertaining.

Hurst’s facility with the language, whether Shakespearean or modern, is a joy to experience. The poetry flows effortlessly, and when he inhabits characters with absolute sincerity and truth, allowing the language to do its work supported by minimal technology, the audience is held spellbound.

This play has developed since it was first staged (as Frequently Asked Questions: To Be or Not to Be then Bard Day’s Night) in 2012, and in this incarnation the thespian seems to have taken on more aspects of Hurst’s own experiences, including nods to his own skills and previous acting roles. This makes the texture of the performance richer, and for all of the virtuoso slapstick and hilarity, this is a very human story.

There is a heart of darkness and sadness that Hurst allows to build and breathe as the play unfolds, and it is here that his skill is most apparent, making us truly feel and fear for this character, so bereft, so unhinged and so unpredictable. There are moments of such depth of emotion in Hurst’s performance that the hair stands up on the back of my neck as my heart goes out to the extremely vulnerable human being he has created.

No Holds Bard allows us to investigate “What a piece of work is a man” in a truly Shakespearean way, and we are fortunate to see a master craftsman at work in that investigation.  


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Hour upon the stage enough

Review by Barbara Frame 16th Oct 2014

The set depicts a shabby, not very tidy flat where a newly single actor has come to roost. We can tell his wife has kicked him out because of the messages that arrive on his phone. We know he’s an actor because he’s wearing Shakespearean costume, tights and all.

Michael Hurst plays the nameless actor for whom the slings, arrows and a surfeit of everything else the world throws at us have got to be too much. Taking to the bottle, he engages with demons, struts and frets, rages and despairs – mostly, though not always, in the lines of Shakespeare, with a preponderance of Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear and Othello and some strong hints of Billy Connolly.

The tension is heightened by the fact that there’s a gun on the stage, but the performance is also enlivened by the play’s sourly comic moments where the suspense is defused, and by some charming nonsense involving a fried-egg sandwich.

Hurst, an accomplished Shakespearean actor, has great timing and he’s always good to watch. His performance is highly athletic, with falls, tumbles, back flips and quite a lot of beating himself up.

It’s not strictly necessary for the audience to be familiar with Shakespeare, though some recall of the plays undoubtedly helps. There are, however, two difficulties. The first is that, while there’s unresolved tension in the character’s life, he isn’t in himself interesting or sympathetic enough for the audience to care much about whether or not he’s going to survive his personal and thespian crisis. The second is that, while all of this is fine stuff, an essential sameness and the absence of a clear trajectory throughout make an hour of it seem quite long enough.


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Wildly energetic, remarkably complex, simply superlative

Review by Kimberley Buchan 16th Oct 2014

A good actor is bonded intimately to his character and becomes them night after night. The danger in this lies when the character begins to inhabit the actor. And what happens when more than one of your previous roles comes back to haunt you? 

Michael Hurst plays a Shakespearean actor beyond the edge of reason. After playing Hamlet 181 nights in a row it is understandable that he has gone a little crazy. The play begins as the actor, still in his Hamlet costume, is holding a gun to his head. As the actor is trying to work through this monumental choice, more of his past roles come flooding in to help with his decision.

Macbeth, Lear, Othello arrive and start competing over brain space and sandwiches. Clearly things have gone a little wrong. This is compounded by the piercing intermittent voice mail messages from his daughter, ex-wife and concerned friends which jar the actor and the audience back to reality.

This clever, densely layered script is exceedingly demanding of the lone actor. Director Natalie Medlock has got the best out of Michael Hurst as he makes it look easy. He changes character faster than you can blink, sometimes multiple times within one sentence. He takes the audience to the extreme lows that Hamlet, Macbeth, Lear and Othello exemplify.

Yet within a syllable Hurst makes these tragic heroes utterly hilarious. Macbeth getting excited over a slice of plastic cheese is not an image that is easily forgotten. Neither are Hamlet and Macbeth’s Fight Club style brawls which give Hurst a chance to show off his superb physical theatre skills.

A working knowledge of these four famous plays is recommended. For the Shakespeare lover, watching this play is like feasting on the choicest titbits of the four Shakespearean plays.

No Holds Bard is fast paced and definitely keeps the audiences on its toes when more and more characters get added and the changes between them happen at whirlwind speed. This is extremely enjoyable if you are well acquainted with the original tragedies but can get bewildering if you are not, especially when the characters start taking over each other’s monologues. 

This one man show (or shower if you are sitting in the front row due to Hurst’s passionate projection of plosives) is a credit to Royale Productions. They have managed to create a wildly energetic and entertaining show that is remarkably complex with regards to the relationships between texts, characters, mental states and reality.

This is yet another magnificent show of outstanding quality in this year’s Dunedin Festival of Arts. It is simply superlative.


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A masterpiece of Elizabethan schizophrenia

Review by Robbie Nicol 24th Aug 2013

First performed at the New Zealand International Arts Festival, Wellington, in March 2012 as Frequently Asked Questions: To Be Or Not To Be, then in Auckland as Bard Day’s Night, what is now known as No Holds Bard is Michael Hurst’s first one-person show, and it is a triumph.

The performance is constantly surging forwards, crashing between the characters of Macbeth, Othello, King Lear and a version of Michael Hurst himself. This is how Shakespeare should be performed. All of the skills are there – the communication with the audience, the willingness to let Shakespeare’s words do the acting, the mastery of physicality and voice – but what is most Shakespearean about No Holds Bard is its ability to examine the human condition so delicately amongst a storm of violence and humour.

An actor has just finished his performance of Hamlet. He is standing in his apartment with a gun to his head, hesitating on the edge of death. There is a voice on the answering machine, telling him that his performance is the “best Hamlet I’ve ever seen”. Too slow to pull the trigger, or to decide not to pull the trigger, he allows Macbeth to barge into the performance with a fierce physical presence and a fiercer Scottish accent.

Othello soon arrives with a bang, and Lear moans his way into the performance only to come back to collect a sandwich he has left behind. Hurst shifts between the characters with ease, and the dialogue runs as smoothly as it would with a full cast.

On occasion, the lights dim, and Hurst shows his chops as a serious Shakespearean actor. He captivates the audience, considering each line of verse before handing it over to us with complete clarity. At other times, the characters are in an all-out brawl. Hurst flies across the stage, exulting in the slapstick with boundless energy. 

Importantly, No Holds Bard is more than just a showcase for Hurst’s talent. Natalie Medlock, Michael Hurst and Dan Musgrove (not to mention the Bard himself) have written a play that considers procrastination, death and Shakespeare with an enormous depth of understanding. In a chilling moment Othello holds Ophelia’s head under the water, and we realise that the distinction between the deaths of Ophelia and Desdemona is not as obvious as we might have thought.

No Holds Bard is full of depth and intelligence, butits most important element is its humour. Even after Othello’s contribution reaches a suicidal climax, he quickly stands up again to suggest he “let himself out”. Macbeth’s criticisms of Hamlet’s outfit run like a Billy Connolly routine, and his complaints about marrying Lady Macbeth include the phrase: “I thought it would be fun at first – it’s just bloody murder.”

Hurst injects just enough levity to keep the show balanced, and the performance is often pleasingly hard to predict (there’s a surprise, for example, in who gets to ask about the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune).

As an icon of New Zealand theatre, and a leading advocate of Shakespeare in New Zealand, Michael Hurst’s first one-person show is a masterpiece of Elizabethan schizophrenia. At times an utter piss-take, and at others a carefully constructed work of poetry, No Holds Bard feels just as Shakespeare should.  


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Hurst’s a Bardarse

Review by Sharu Delilkan 10th Jun 2013

Michael Hurst in his element. Aptly described as an outrageous and often profound look into one actor’s attempt at self-destruction, No Holds Bard definitely promises what it delivers… and more.

This original compilation of numerous Shakespearean excerpts woven together from the likes of Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth and Othello is a great way to showcase Michael Hurst’s mastery of the Shakespearean form, cleverly peppered with an irreverent comic edge. [More


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Hilarious, awe-inspiring great fun

Review by Johnny Givins 05th Jun 2013

Michael Hurst is back in town with his sensational solo show No Holds Bard.  It’s only on for two weeks at the Basement and if you haven’t seen it get down there for a feast of world class theatre. 

This is a one man inferno of energy blown through the prism of Shakespeare and forged with the skill of a craftsman.  Not only does Hurst perform the text with superb clarity, he captures the essence of the greatest of Shakespeare’s male characters.    

He sets himself the impossible task of playing not only Hamlet, but Macbeth, Othello and Lear all talking to each other.  It’s mesmerising to watch as he weaves deep psychological moments into comedy routines.  Gags are thrown from one character to the other bouncing ducking and diving (yes even fighting) with each other around the stage.  It’s hilarious, awe-inspiring great fun. 

Ostensibly No Holds Bard is about an actor, just finished a performance as Hamlet, getting home to his fetid bedsit and a revelation of the schizophrenic actor post show mind.   The sudden arrival of the Glaswegian Thug (Macbeth) with a brilliant flood of Scots street vernacular, aggressive and maniacal, is pinpoint accurate. Othello the Blackamoor is suitably basso profundo but talks as you could imagine Othello would if you could just get him out of the verse. Lear is suitably vacant and shows elements of a performance that, in the future, will give Hurst a landscape to express his talents in the full text.  Here we only really see the mad king and he is ‘huge’. 

Hurst wrote No Hold Bard with Natalie Medlock and Dan Musgrove and shows the trio’s love and in-depth knowledge of the bard and the inner workings of actors playing the parts.  The banter is modern but also fits the textures and psychology of the iconic characters.  It’s funny clever, surprising and always entertaining. 

Physically this is the most demanding performance I have ever seen in a one man show.  Hurst does not hesitate to go further than anyone before.  The climatic fight scene where Hurst fights himself playing several characters at the same time is a tour de force.  Hurst’s work on the many acclaimed classical theatre productions, and as an actor and director of Hercules and Spartacus tv series, is evident in the skill of the stunts and the recover. 

No Holds Bard is raising funds to assist the company take this superb theatre to the Edinburgh Festival 2013 where it will play for 28 days in the Assembly Rooms. A marathon is ahead for Michael Hurst. The audience who have seen this show around the country already praise this show with ovations. Its release to the world stage will be a triumph for one of our greatest theatre icons.  It deserves the highest of accolades. 


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Virtuoso performance effective but not affecting

Review by Hannah Smith 18th May 2013

Hamlet is a Danish ponce, Othello jiggles ladies on his knee, Macbeth would like to play Horatio, and King Lear wants a sandwich.

No Holds Bard, previously Frequently Asked Questions and even briefly Bard Day’s Night, is as multifaceted in form as it has been in name.  A post-modern mash up of Shakespearean verse and contemporary equivocation, it is a shining success as the vessel for an outstanding performance from Michael Hurst.

The show begins with Hurst, in caricatured Hamlet costume, standing front centre with a pistol to his head – should he do it, or not?  Therein lies the question.  What follows is a romp through Shakespeare’s canon, with appearances from all the great tragic heroes. King Lear, Othello and Macbeth all weigh in with their penny’s worth of advice for the young prince of Denmark.

While the material is going to have the greatest reward for those familiar with the plays, the texts drawn upon are pretty well known, and the jokes are not cerebral or obtuse.  And, whether you’re a Shakespeare buff or not, you should go to see Michael Hurst give a virtuoso performance. His technique is remarkable, the lift of an eyebrow, the pitch of voice, accent, tone and expression are utilised to snap him from character to character.  His one-man fight is fantastic: back flips, chair rolls, hair pulls, and self-strangling; it is all there and draws appreciative oohs and aahs from the audience.

While Hurst is successful as all of the heroes (a doddering King Lear is mercifully brief) it is Macbeth who is an absolute standout.  A rich brogue and a cheeky down to earth persona make him funny and appealing – not a lot like the Macbeth in the text, but then, probably the most likeable Macbeth to ever grace the stage.

Shakespeare’s language gets to glow as well – as each of the major characters deliver their great soliloquies.  Anger, terror, sorrow, regret, the stuff that plays are made of; Hurst conjures each with ease.

Ultimately, Hurst’s performance outshines the script, which utilises fairly familiar techniques of Shakespeare/contemporary mashups and does not make clear the rules of the story-telling. There is something about the premise that precludes emotional connection – we watch exemplary technique by a masterful performer but are not asked to engage with a story or follow a character arc, so the individual speeches are effective but not affecting. Also, it misses a golden (and seemingly set up) opportunity to use the line from Macbeth “What you egg!  Young fry of treachery!”

It is fantastic to hear that this show is travelling to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August.  There is a lot of potential in Medlock and Musgrove’s script, and in Hurst they have a remarkable performer, so it bodes well for a great success.


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