Roger Leblanc joins Calgary’s Shakespeare Company

Earlier this year, Roger Leblanc reached the semi-finals of the TV show Canada’s Got Talent by reciting dialogue from the plays of William Shakespeare.

The Calgary native says he first became interested in Shakespeare while studying performing arts in Los Angeles.

“I fell in love with the power of the language,” Leblanc says. “Ever since then, I have been constantly trying to better myself with it.”

When the opportunity came up to perform Shakespeare on stage in his hometown,The cast of Hamlet includes Trevor Matheson as Guildenstern (left), Christian Goutsis as Hamlet (centre) and Byron Allen as Rosencrantz (right).

Photo By Karry Taylor Leblanc jumped at the chance. He will play Laertes in The Shakespeare Company’s Hamlet, currently running at Vertigo Theatre until Sept. 29.

Joining Leblanc will be several other Calgary-based actors, including Christian Goutsis in the title role.

Goutsis says the role of Hamlet is one that many actors covet.

“It’s just a great story,” Goutsis says. “It’s also a big challenge for an actor because of the language, and also because of the emotional journey that Hamlet undertakes.

“It’s one of those privileges that you can’t pass up if you are given the opportunity.”

Leblanc says that the audience will find that Goutsis portrays a very charming Hamlet.

“It’s so hard not to fall in love with him,” Leblanc says. “Christian brings you along with Hamlet’s tragedy and makes you sympathize with him.”

Haysem Kadri, the company’s artistic producer who is also serving as the director of Hamlet, says he loves the play because it is a ghost story — something he hopes will interest the audience.

Duval Lang (left) plays Polonuis in Hamlet.

Photo by Karry Taylor
“We have some interesting things going on in terms of how we portray the ghosts,” Kadri says. “I am excited about that.”

As the director, one challenge Kadri faced was how to best bring an epic Shakespearean play to the intimate setting of the Vertigo Theatre.

“We have extraordinary characters who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances,” Kadri says. “We are doing a very big play in a very small theatre, so we are trying to find elements of how to bring that to an audience.”

Another challenge of performing Shakespeare is ensuring modern audiences can relate to the plays. Leblanc says Kadri has done that by creating a compact two-hour version of Hamlet.

“Haysem is making it short and sexy,” Leblanc says. “He is cutting out the fat and making it more appealing for the attention span of society.

“I love Shakespeare, but even I can’t sit down and read it for three hours.”

The Shakespeare Company is in its 16th season of performing in Calgary. Kadri says the company aims to make Shakespeare accessible to everyone — including those whose only previous exposure is reading the plays in high school.

“Shakespeare enthusiasts will come to Shakespeare,” Kadri says. “We would also like to see people who aren’t normally inclined to come out to a Shakespeare performance.”

Leblanc also hopes the performance will spark more interest.

“There is hardly enough Shakespeare in this city,” Leblanc says. “There is no reason why Calgary can’t become the next Stratford. The talent is here. The facilities are here.”

Hamlet runs until Sept. 29 at Vertigo Theatre. Performances are held nightly at 7 p.m. with additional weekend matinees at 2:30 p.m.

ktaylor@cjournal.ca