Review: ‘Ophelia is Also Dead’

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One walks out of Ophelia is also Dead profoundly moved. It achieves something theatre often strives to do, and sometimes achieves, by shaking you to your very core. As an audience member, you are forced to feel involved, with the characters making eye contact with you, shouting at the audience, or shaking one of our hands. The fourth wall is broken in the most successful of ways, forcing us to peer into our own minds and consider ‘yes, why do we love to watch pretty girls drown?’

Aliya Gilmore (writer) is an unsurmountable, undeniable talent. She writes in a nearly poetic way, beautiful lines flowing into each other like waves. She gives a voice to one of Shakespeare’s most famous female characters in such a brilliant way; Ophelia oozes with character, wit, fury, sadness and hope. She is no longer merely a pretty drowned girl, a victim, but a personality that fills the stage to the brim. There are lines that stay with you long after the round of applause, a feeling scored into your brain of the bitterness of the pure injustice of it all. Gilmore dissects Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ and our constant reproductions of it, asking why we must continue to watch such tragedy. Gilmore’s writing is a masterpiece.

Auguste Voulton (director) and Adam Carruthers (technical director) have done amazingly well. The lighting always perfect for the scene, intense when the scenes become more intense, and the tableaus are incredibly well-utilised. The placings are always the best to stick the image of a particular monologue in one’s mind.

Fionna Monk gives an enchanting and intense performance, captivating the audience for every word. Her performance is flawless. Monk’s every expression, every word, the rise and falls of voice are incredible, one cannot find a weakness in her talent. She carries Gilmore’s amazing script with all the emotion, dignity and energy it deserves. One struggles to look away from her, despite the brilliant talents of her fellow cast members. Monk is the pervading image of the play and its deserving star.

The Hamlet we see is an expert one, a blend of the melancholy, vulnerable Hamlet (with which we have been familiar since the Romantics) and an assertive one (seen in Ophelia’s fantasies of the future). brings him to life with expertise, with flawless transitions between different emotional states. Rozanski even stands in the background of one of Ophelia’s monologues with tears visible in his eyes, an incredibly talented actor, delivering great emotion.

There is not a weak member of the cast, not even relatively. carries herself with great confidence, overflowing with stage presence. Goetzee’s finest moment is perhaps in her delivering the description of Ophelia’s “muddy death”, stood upon a table. She fills the room with the right amount of sadness and awe with her moving speech, perfectly spoken. Ophelia’s death is finally given the grief it deserves.

Joe Pape offers a strong performance of Laertes, invoking empathy and also providing a level-headed balance to the more chaotic nature of Ophelia. Cameron Ashplant was a perfect fit for the king, with all the right amount of gravitas, embodying the character wholly – when he speaks, one is captivated. Alexander Cohen is a refreshing force in the play, embodying Morrissey very well, a brilliant caricature of the ‘indie white boy’ figure which so often bleeds into Hamlet. His moment of song and dance is wonderful (and he sounds very much like Morrissey), and one is continually impressed by his talent for performance and movement.

I would endlessly recommend this production for its wit, its intensity, and its emotional power. Ophelia is also Dead both complements and moves beyond the Shakespeare, shaking our hearts and forcing us to mourn the endless bloodshed of ‘Hamlet’. We drown with Ophelia, but from her death we rise, our awareness elevated.

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