This show has an attractive title and a premise brimming with potential: a series of scenes between Hamlet and Ophelia in the years prior to the events of Hamlet, combined with dialogue and correspondence from the playwright’s own life. It should be a lovely meditation on young romance, but it’s hampered by awkward staging and clunky dialogue.
It’s a good idea and it’s been done in earnest, but Hamlet and Ophelia Go Swimming isn’t anything special
The choice to represent Hamlet and Ophelia with five different couples is an interesting one and the pairs of actors are nicely matched in terms of physicality and chemistry, but they all remain seated onstage throughout the piece, acting as audience members during the scenes. It’s bit disconcerting and self-congratulatory when performers laugh at their own show, particularly when the dialogue isn’t all that funny.
The songs in between scenes are a nice touch, and the cast all have lovely voices despite their habit of singing extremely pretentious lyrics with very grim facial expressions, like a deadly earnest high school show choir. At one point, an actor accompanies the singers on a bright green plastic melodica; the whole thing is aggressively whimsical. There’s also extremely twee dialogue in vein of “they were two people who had never met each other. They were like two hummingbirds, who had also never met each other.” All the while, I had a violent urge to shout, like Jack Lemmon critiquing Tony Curtis’ Cary Grant impression in Some Like It Hot, “nobody talks like that!”
It seems the director really just wanted to make a quirky short film rather than a theatre production. Though there are some heartfelt moments, most of the scenes would work far better on film and the cast all seem to be acting for an invisible camera. The use of music suggests a soundtrack rather than accompaniment.
It’s a good idea and it’s been done in earnest, but Hamlet and Ophelia Go Swimming isn’t anything special: it’s mostly just young people with alternative hairstyles describing their relationships in terms of birds, lakes, and other natural phenomena. It’s a pity, because in theory this could be quite a nice show.