Sunday, November 7, 2010

II.i. Ophelia Affrighted - Tennant (2009)

Ophelia comes running through Elsinore in a floral dress (flowers being associated with her quite closely) and finds her father. Here is where I started losing confidence in Ophelia's casting. Mariah Gale is a good actress and expression, tears, etc. are genuine. However, I have problems with her physicality. Her posture through most of this scene is awkward and stilted and her look so shabby as to wonder how she was ever a match for the princely Hamlet. Her deterioration is too rapid and she looks here like she might during her madness scenes.

Oliver Ford Davies' Polonius continues to be highly watchable. When he asks "What said he?", we suddenly understand that he doesn't just want to understand what happened, but that he doesn't trust Ophelia to understand. The conclusions he jumps to based on a second-hand account fill him with pride, and in a complete disconnect from his daughter, smiles through most of the scene.
He consoles her, claiming that Hamlet's breakdown is actually a good thing. It means he loves her, can't she see? Otherwise, his attitude is "ah well"; there is no empathy for her there. His next step is to take her to the King, and he does so almost on automatic, like you'd tell a child with a bloody knee it was time to go to the medicine cabinet. And Ophelia IS a child, which is why I tend to forgive her the awkwardness. However, what does that make the 30-something Hamlet that he is in love with such an immature girl? Of course, this is a question we may ask of almost any production where those ages are respected.


John Kenneth Fisher said...

"Her deterioration is too rapid."

This in a nutshell is my problem with Ophelia entirely. I hate to say it, but the mad scene is easily my least favorite part of the play. There's a Simpsons parody of Hamlet, where Ophelia (Lisa) yells "No one out crazies Ophelia!" and immediately jumps in a moat, and this strikes me as a very accurate summing up of the situation.

I'll save further thoughts for the mad scene when you get there, but Ophelia's visible slippage here to me seems like an attempt to help that problem by giving us an early sign of what is to come.

Siskoid said...

It'll be a while, obviously, but Ophelia's later madness does have time to develop (in between Acts, while Hamlet is away) and has a trigger (the death of her father at the hands of her lover). That said, there are degrees of performance that work better than others as we'll see.