Ophelia is confused about the meaning of love. Who exactly should she be to please her suitors? And is it really what she wants? In this powerful reworking of a Shakespeare classic, Hamlet is no longer snatching the glory. Instead, 'Ophelia Thinks Harder', written by Jean Betts, and directed by Matt Bentley, explores the ways of being a woman, and thoroughly questions acts of social construct, such as the meaning of virginity.
With a persistent Hamlet trying to steal her heart, Ophelia begins to feel trapped, as her life is beginning to mould her into something she doesn't want to become. From what to wear, to who to marry, she is desperate to break the realms of this torture, and create her own identity. Meeting a range of influences along the way (as well as witnessing a surprise dance break), we follow as Ophelia learns a lot about the world she lives in, and how to tackle it.
Several heavy scenes are present to recall the narrative, and the audience begin to feel great emotion about the strong behaviours displayed particularly by the male characters, being a difficult watch at times. However, these uncomfortable moments of viewing keep discussion open, with regards to topics such as abuse that will always remain important.
Natalie Harding- Moore does a sterling job as Ophelia, successfully depicting her innocence, and subsequent growing confidence in a beautiful manner. Although a quickly hated character, Hamlet, played by Josh Beckman, is notoriously good, contradicted by his kinder sidekick, Horatio (Rhydian Harris). The charm of Emily Bates and Josie Teale as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern respectively shines through in their wise words, while Heather Daniel courteously becomes the maid. Danielle Capretti made a notable performance as the queen (with her tiny king beside her!), showing grace on every word in her monologues in particular.
A fairly basic set- primarily comprised of a mirror, bed, chair, and clothes rails- leaves most of the storytelling to be spoken, and with great opportunity to appreciate language, with the iconic lines, and text of Shakespeare woven through. Despite this, the piece felt quite long, so some engagement lost at times over the duration. Snippets of modern, yet appropriately correlational, songs were used as brief interludes, becoming a nice extra touch to the piece.
Representing the blatant contrast to modern femininity and expression, while highlighting how far we still have to go, this play gives power to the female mind and ability to love, though nourishing the origins of it being a twist on Shakespeares tale.
Ophelia thinks harder, and it'll make sure you do too.