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Ophelia (Drowning)
Published on Tuesday, 11 August 2009

After staging Crave by Sarah Kane and Metamorphoses based on Kafka, 3BUGS, faithful to its style and thematic focus, kicked off this Fringe with the agonizing suicide story of the fragile Ophelia. This piece is an intertextual work inspired by a painting by British pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais, the original play Pushing the Prince into Denmark by Deborah Levy, and lines from Hamlet.

Ophelia (Drowning) is the latest show to occupy one of the Fringe's most unusual venues: the swimming pool of the Apex International Hotel on the Grassmarket. After a fifteen-minute delay, the excited audience - not knowing what to expect - was asked to take their shoes off, and each given paracetamol tablet to be handed later to the main character in the play (a fact which was not initially shared).

We all sat by the swimming pool, sweating with the heat, and squeezing together from time to time to let the actors pass between us on the narrow lanes. The whole play revolved around a love triangle - in which the victim is Ophelia - and Gertrude, who made useless attempts to save her.

On the one side of the pool we could see and touch Hamlet and his lover, while on the other – on the other was Ophelia. The direction kept us constantly on edge: in one shocking moment, a plugged-in hairdryer was thrown in the water and Ophelia’s head and shoulders, submerged along with it, shivered as though electricity was passing through her body.

As a whole, though, the performance was too lyrical to work as drama. It lacked dramatic tension, despite the obvious conflict and the victimized portraits of Ophelia and Gertrude. It was also hard to get a feel of the characters – they were too vaguely-drawn to get emotionally engaged.

But what screamed out from the play were the visual cues: the floating white scarf and dress in the pool, the flowers and candle lights; and the final scene of the drowned woman, which might truly shatter your nerves.

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