Within, incorporating Hamlet and Ophelia by Elyse Horan and Interior by Maurice Maeterlinck. Directed by Elyse Horan at Belconnen Theatre, Belconnen Community Centre, March 14-16, 2007 at 7.30pm.
It is important to see this production in context. Elyse Horan is a young writer and director who has put an interesting idea on stage, in what seems to me to be a self-training exercise. Completing Year 12 Drama at Copland College last year, and with several years’ experience at Canberra Youth Theatre, she has taken up the offer of a short season at Belconnen Theatre.
Director of Belconnen Theatre, Jan Wawrzynczak, has developed his role as producer for the many young people in Belconnen who need a place to put on work as they move from College into the adult world of theatre. Currently, Copland, Hawker and Radford Colleges have ex-students in the program, which gives them the theatre space free, with practical assistance and mentoring from Wawrzynczak. Other groups are nominally charged a hire fee, but pay at the end of their season, with Wawrzynczak able to adjust his budget to support groups who make a loss.
In this context, Horan’s experiment is clever in concept. Maeterlinck’s play is about a family unaware that their eldest daughter has been drowned. An old man from the village must tell them, but we see him with the man who discovered her body, watching the contented family through a lighted window. He does not know how to tell them, but in the end he must as the villagers bring the daughter’s body to the house.
Horan has seen the daughter as Ophelia, and presents her imagined scene of the lovers at the point where Hamlet begins to go mad, leading to Ophelia’s drowning. Though she has caught onto the idea of symbolism, which was Maeterlinck’s original contribution to theatre, Horan’s play is a mix of some effective realism with some juvenile black-costumed characters supposedly representing elements of Hamlet’s madness. If she had worked in the same mode as Maeterlinck, perhaps with a chorus who describe for us what they see, objectively reporting as we watch Ophelia and Hamlet in action (and hear Shakespeare’s words), Horan might have produced a small masterpiece.
She has far to go as a writer yet, of course, and this is a worthwhile rite of passage.
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