Ophelia (drowning) ****

Sweet Grassmarket Swimming Pool, 5 – 18 August 2009

Reviewed for the British Theatre Guide

The clear, rippling water – jets turned up high for maximum eddying – is the source of some striking, moving visuals in this collage of Hamlet, pop lyrics and Deborah Levy’s Pushing the Prince into Denmark. The trappings of marriage – white veil and bouquet – take on a gloss of melancholy unreality when swirling, ghostlike, in the current or lying on the bottom, visible only through a shifting, distorting lens.

Helen Morton’s Ophelia is equally arresting. Her shoulders tense and rounded, her voice as husky and tremulous as if something were tightening around her chest, she avoids eye contact as Gertrude (Rose Walker) attempts, through allegory and outright pleading, to persuade her to let go her hang-ups and move on.

Though it dominates the space, the pool is more set piece than stage, used more as a symbolic watery grave for cast-off props than for swimming in. Other than at the very beginning and end of the play, the action is mostly limited to repetitive circuits of the poolside, as Ophelia and Gertrude debate in figurative and literal circles. Pete Wheller as the Prince, the most frequently submerged character, puts altogether too much effort into both his vindictive glowering and his enunciation, in a contrast to Morton’s more subtly studied performance. Fortunately, the Prince spends most of the play in the corner cosseting his mocking-bird Lover (Serafina Kiszko), allowing the far superior Morton the exposure she deserves.

Written by Daniel Marchese Robinson and Daniel Pitt after Deborah Levy after William Shakespeare

Crew includes Daniel Marchese Robinson and Daniel Pitt (directors/designers)

Cast includes Serafina Kiszko (The Lover), Helen Morton (Ophelia), Rose Walker (Gertrude) and Pete Wheller (The Prince)

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