By Danielle Farrow
“’Tis in my memory lock’d” are words spoken by Ophelia to her brother in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In The Second Earth Theatre Company’s multi-media look at Hamlet’s relationship with this doomed girl, Ophelia appears on screen only – a figment of the prince’s imagination – and Hamlet’s words are taken from many characters, chopped and pieced together to form a wholly new play.
This Hamlet is the “spirit, doom’d for a certain time to walk”, often calling “what hour now?” as he watches the minutes. He examines his memory of Ophelia and his feelings for her as if this will bring release, the projected image of his love often returning to the same lines yet stimulating different responses from the ‘live’ Hamlet. Original music provides haunting accompaniment and the sense of repetition through time is assisted by simple lighting changes on a stage bare but for the projection screen at the back.
This is an intriguing piece. Anyone with an interest in the text of Hamlet would be fascinated to sit with the script and see how the lines have been put together, where the words “here hung those lips that I have kissed” – spoken originally in relation to Yorick’s skull – take on a whole other meaning when connected to Ophelia. People unfamiliar with Shakespeare’s play can still enjoy the depth and thought in this relationship depicted through hindsight and Chip Sherman gives a very natural and believable performance.
The piecemeal nature of the new script does lack the forward-drive of Shakespeare’s and some sense is a bit garbled with wording that occasionally jars. This is a Hamlet glimpsed more in states than on a journey, without a feeling of resolution, though this seemed to be wished. More vocal colour would help to bring variation to the piece and if Sherman were to break Shakespeare’s rhythm less and really ride it – particularly in the famous “to be or not to be” section – the verse’s fantastic drive that plays people physically and galvanises an audience would help some of the pacing.
That said, Sherman holds the attention easily and he dealt with a technical problem – where his appealing Ophelia (played by Barbie Wu) was no longer projected – with calm confidence so that the loss did not impede a performance that has its own quiet strength and vulnerability.
This is not a Shakespeare piece of dynamic action (which the original Hamlet does have, despite the character’s reputation), but it is an intriguing response to the famous play, exploring the Ophelia relationship which has provoked much consideration over the centuries. ‘’Tis in My Memory Locked’ manages to linger on in the mind, provoking its own questions and responses.
3 – 29 August, 14:05 (14:55) @ C Venues