Saturday, July 6, 2013

IV.v. Ophelia's Madness - Kline '90

Diane Venora has such a deep voice, it's hard to see her as anything but an adult version of Ophelia, but perhaps that's why her descent into madness as a kind of intermittent return to childhood, works. She's a woman acting like a little girl, dancing, clapping, singing and giggling in her night gown. It's a complex, mercurial, if sometimes over the top performance, with some interesting elements of mise en scène. First and foremost is her lack of animosity towards the royals. By removing the early sequence in which Gertrude doesn't want to see her, Kline makes the Queen more sympathetic, and Ophelia runs to her arms as if a mother. She puts on a brave face when the King arrives, but won't have anyone speak of her father's death. If there is a dark side to their relationship, it may be apprehended during the song about the two lovers. She plays director to the story, puts the King's hand into the Queen's and indicates how he's the boy in the story, and she the girl. Is she inferring something about the royal couple? That perhaps they'd been having an affair before Hamlet Sr.'s death? Or is it more likely she's throwing up a mirror for a future Hamlet & Ophelia that will now never come to pass?

Venora really presents two Ophelias. The child who dreams of being Queen, who sees imaginary ladies-in-waiting (in lines which, on the stage, might well be directed at audience members), sings and dances and passes notes (what is the significance of the crumpled piece of paper she gives Gertrude? An old love letter? Is this a corruption of the scene in which Polonius reads on to the royals?). The other Ophelia is the traumatized, grieving daughter who scratches at the floorboards (where the audience knows ghosts live), rhymes rather than sings, moans and beats her chest. They don't co-exist. When she moves from orphan to child at one point, she realizes her face is wet with tears and starts wiping it, as puzzled as she is ashamed. Ophelia is out of joint.

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