- Miles Hedley
THE SECRET LOVE LIFE OF OPHELIA Greenwich Theatre YouTube channel
Steven Berkoff’s play The Secret Love Life Of Ophelia could have been written for lockdown – an exchange of 39 claustrophobically passionate messages between Hamlet and Ophelia after they are denied physical contact by their families.
Director James Haddrell cleverly uses separate actors to give life to each of the outpourings, updated into the form of video messages, which not only keeps the action fresh but also gives 39 young men and women the chance to work at a time when live theatre is all but at a standstill.
The 90-minute show, streaming on Greenwich Theatre’s YouTube channel till 14 August, also features a guest appearance as Queen Gertrude by the theatre’s patron Helen Mirren. The Oscar-winner is on screen for only a minute - but it’s long enough to realise what people mean when they talk about an actor having presence. She is mesmerising.
So, too, is the rest of the cast, each of whom manages in their brief appearances to create a credible and individual persona as they speak their Shakespearean-style lines while sitting, pacing or lounging in front of a digital camera at home.
The cultural clash of Tudoresque language and a modern setting could have undermined the play’s emotional core but in fact the anachronisms enhance the piece by making us realise the timelessness of true love – a tribute both to Haddrell’s direction and uniformly fine acting.
For the record, the cast – in the order given on the YouTube credits – are Miles Kinsley, Morayo Adeagbo, Lew Freeburn, Chloe Wade, Daniel Reid-Walters, Chanel Fernandes, Nick Rawbin, Savannah Rae-Gordon, Vicki Modi, Shaofan Wilson, Ashkay Khanna, Serin Ibrahim, Paddy Stafford, Tamaira Hesson, David Angland, Kathryn Djemai, Joe Swift, Cassandra Hercules, Matt Blaney, Ida Regan, Charlie Nobel, Emma-Louise Howell, Karim Motaz, Jasmine Raymond, Ollie Booth, Safia Lamrani, Owen Baxter, Maisie Armah, Kaine Hatukai, Lorna Panton, Conor Rivers, Chanté Frazer, Marc Zayat, Elizabeth Chu, Harry Ames, Lily Demir, Tre Medley, Vivianne Sengati and Daniel Adeosun.
The list is rounded off by Mirren herself, who speaks the final lines of this brave attempt to flesh out an iconic Shakespearean love story. Her presence gives the production an international cachet - and sprinkles a handful of stardust on what will become for each of her young colleagues a to-die-for showreel.