JOYCE MCMILLAN on OPHELIA at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman, 5.7.14.

4 stars ****

THE SUMMER SEASON of cut-down classics at A Play A Pie And A Pint can be fun; but sometimes, the shows also carry a serious critical message. Last week, Ben Lewis reimagined Cervantes’s Don Quixote as an old man in a pleasant Glasgow suburb, living through the experience of dementia; and this week, writer Alan McKendrick and director Stewart Laing take Shakespeare’s Hamlet apart, seeking to expose the full horror of what happens to Hamlet’s love and possible partner, the lovely Ophelia.

McKendrick’s technique is therefore to mix familiar scenes from the play with a series of brand-new soliloquies for a modern Ophelia. Delivered straight to the audience via a microphone, these monologues chart her decline from a confident, lively, sexy self-awareness – this Ophelia is pursuing the tormented Prince for sex, rather than vice versa – to a woman broken and driven to suicide by a system that sees human life as expendable, and love as a liability.

Whether everything about this three-handed show works as well as it should is debatable; Scott Reid makes a distractingly childish Hamlet, Alison Peebles seems slightly uneasy as Polonius. What’s not in doubt, though, is Adura Onashile’s mind-blowingly powerful and moving performance as a true Ophelia for our times; one who – like so many young women of the 21st century – has grown up thinking that she is free, only to learn that that that freedom is largely illusory, and must be fought for all over again, or surrendered, in an unbearable moment of defeat.

Seen on 1 July.


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