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BWW Review: THE SECRET LOVE LIFE OF OPHELIA, Greenwich Theatre Online

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BWW Review: THE SECRET LOVE LIFE OF OPHELIA, Greenwich Theatre OnlineBWW Review: THE SECRET LOVE LIFE OF OPHELIA, Greenwich Theatre Online

The Secret Love Life of Ophelia is a new adaption of Steven Berkoff's two-hander play. The cast consists of 39 young actors with a cameo by Oscar-winner and the venue's patron, Dame Helen Mirren. This is Greenwich Theatre's debut online production as part of their ambitious online programme Greenwich Connects.

The play is an adaption of Hamlet that takes the form of love letters written between the young prince and Ophelia. Though written in 2001, the play aims to replicate Shakespearean language and prose. The plot proposes to give insight into the romantic relationship between the two young lovers, and suggests a far more passionate and dramatic entanglement than we see in the original play.

My major concern with this production is with the script itself. To try and replicate Shakespeare's famous writing is extremely ambitious, perhaps even unachievable. Instead, we are left with a lot of obscure words and old-world phrases which do not really further the story. Here, you are pleasing no one - Shakespeare lovers will be left disappointed, and everyone else will just be confused. Equally, it doesn't feel as though the premise is plot-driven enough to warrant an entire hour-and-a-half play. There isn't really a climax or resolve, and no action at all, so it does become very repetitive.

However, luckily director James Haddrell has tried to overcome this by sharing the two roles between 39 emerging actors. In the end, I felt like I was watching a showcase as opposed to a story. For that purpose, the production is entertaining. Despite the difficult script they were given, these actors show great promise. There are some particular standouts who are able to make dramatic sense of the script and find an element of realness, bringing us back to the 21st century.

Sadly, I'm not able to identify these particular individuals because the cast is so large and there is nowhere that puts face to name. But there are highlights like an actress offering some blocking by coming into her room and hanging her jacket on the back of the door, or the actor who uses a beer as a prop to offer the idea he was in the middle of something before the call. The monologues that have action and a sense that the characters are doing something whilst on the phone, as you would in real life, are the most effective.

Concluding the piece is the long-anticipated Helen Mirren who plays Gertrude, Hamlet's mother - though of course her contribution could never be long enough.

This production's support of new talent should certainly be applauded, and with such diversity in the cast too. It's a clever ploy to reimagine the letters as video messages, contemporising this play. The director and actors do a great job at effectively portraying teenage passion through this believable platform.

The graphics used to add to the illusion that the characters are on video call is a wonderfully effective use of technology. The deliberate faulty screen quality in the credits is also a great touch. Unfortunately, everyone's home recording equipment is at different standard, so I kept having to adjust the volume. It's understandable, though that with a cast so large, consistency in home-production quality is impossible.

In all, this is a good effort at modernising theatre and utilising the online platform to the story's advantage.

The Secret Love Life Of Ophelia is available to watch on Greenwich Theatre's YouTube channel for free until 14 August

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From This Author Bella Bevan