Ophelia

Ophelia is a strange concept: take what is widely considered to be Shakespeare’s masterpiece and try and rewrite it yourself, using lines from the original plus a couple of other Shakespeare favourites for good measure. Ophelia uses lines from Hamlet to shift the focus onto the tragic female character of the play. Her affection and anguish are examined in detail and extrapolated to the point that her usually-inevitable fate is altered. If ever there were a case for ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, then this is it. Clearly, unusual interpretations of Shakespeare can be successful but when the desire to be different overpowers the sense of narrative then the production will lose its audience.The play is, understandably, mercilessly cut to fit a 55 minute slot; to the point that we feel we are watching a storyboard of the play; Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and Laertes are all cut. This would have been a challenge enough for the most experienced of Shakespearian theatre companies but to then change such a well-known story so drastically is a complication too far. The director should have realised that his actors have enough difficulty with the language as it is (the often heavily-accented metre hacks out most sincerity) and that the small stage space would make events such as Ophelia’s resurrection(!) immensely difficult to portray. With such an evidently small budget, the production was too ambitious. As a result, simple technical issues were carelessly neglected; the sound of the wind howling is on loop. Surely it’s no surprise that the audience does notice the silence as the fifty-second track rewinds to start.For such a radical change in concept, the actors seem almost humorously flippant. Initially, Ophelia’s performance seems remarkably restrained but as the drama increases she remains strangely unaffected. By the close of the play, the audience’s sympathies are with the actress over the character. How could her eyes continue to portray the vigour of a character that should have died an act earlier?

Reviews by Sam Kingston-Jones

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The Blurb

Tired of waiting for her prince to propose, Ophelia decides it's time to take action. A fresh look at ‘Hamlet’ using Shakespeare's lines, but not necessarily in the right order. Premiere. **** (Fest), ‘A hit’ (Times) - previous Fringe.

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