"Yet, why did it take us so long to reinvent Ophelia and give her a new voice, autonomy and strength? "
What comes to mind when you think of Ophelia?
Perhaps, you think of Hamlet’s timid, victimised girlfriend who is often on the receiving end of his own descent into madness? Or maybe you remember how Helena Bonham-Carter portrayed Ophelia as a terrifying, almost vicious woman who you most definitely would not want to bump into in a dark alley?
Well, it’s time to reconsider. Sergei Dreznin has reinvented her in this 45-minute adaptation. Ophelia (Sandra Kassman) becomes the heroine – and a well-executed one at that.
The script revolves around Ophelia’s recollection of the lost men in her life; her father, her brother and her lover. Using parts of Shakespeare’s original verse, the audience experiences Ophelia’s own perspective through this musical adaptation. We witness her intimate relationships with the male characters appear on stage just as they shimmer through her mind, reliving each personal moment that occurs between them. Beautifully assembled, Dreznin allows us to see the renowned narrative from her point of view, as though we are in Ophelia’s mind – where she is the sane one.
The performance itself began slowly; unless you are an avid reader of Hamlet, the linearity of the piece can be confusing since each interaction between characters is difficult to place in terms of the original Shakespearean play. However, this is not of great importance since it is the experience of the play, the combination of atmospheric cello and piano, symbolic candles and heavy emphasis on movement, which stays with you when the piece is over.
The vocals of Sandra Kassman ultimately stole the show. The solidarity of her voice emphasised the stability in her portrayal of Ophelia. Hamlet (Tom Manson) was not too far behind with his vocal talent, whilst Polonius (Shaun Wood) brought the quirky twist with his humorous mannerisms, breaking the dark tension of the piece as even the musical accompaniments responded light-heartedly to his presence.
Yet, why did it take us so long to reinvent Ophelia and give her a new voice, autonomy and strength?
This piece is undeniably different, experimental and thought-provoking, raising questions about the wider context of Shakespeare. By empowering Ophelia in this piece, Dreznin establishes a new form of respect for the character, compared to the original pity and sadness she evokes. Yet, why did it take us so long to reinvent Ophelia and give her a new voice, autonomy and strength? During a time when feminism is on the up, and male vulnerability is finally being acknowledged and even embraced, this piece fills a niche I had certainly never considered.
If you want to be enveloped in an experience which questions the classics in modern context, I would advise this play – just don’t try to search for a traditional linear plot as you risk losing the very point of this engaging, almost bewildering piece.