Elyse Knowles and Beth Hobbs play Ophelia and Hamlet, but not as you know them.
Elyse Knowles and Beth Hobbs play Ophelia and Hamlet, but not as you know them. CONTRIBUTED

Ophelia rethinks Hamlet

THE Ophelia Thinks Harder project started as a dream, with friends sitting around a coffee table talking about favourite plays, and planning a performance to raise money for Heartfelt House, a local organisation which supports adults who were sexually abused as children.

In 2013, Sharon Brodie and the same group of friends had worked together to produce the Vagina Monologues at the Star Court Theatre in Lismore.

Ophelia Thinks Harder, by Jean Betts and William Shakespeare, is a feminist rewrite of Hamlet, which explores what would have happened if Ophelia had been given the time to think through all her options and realised she could live without Hamlet.

At a time when domestic violence is on the national agenda, the producers felt its message was timely.

Some of the actors share with us their thoughts on the project:

Beth Hobbs:

When I was asked to play Hamlet in Ophelia Thinks Harder, I was stunned. What an offer. To play one of the greatest characters in the history of theatre - this was clearly an opportunity of a lifetime. I quickly discovered this Hamlet was rather different to the one I was familiar with. In Ophelia Thinks Harder, Hamlet is hardly the tragic hero. How could I, as a woman, portray this troubled, damaged soul convincingly?

It has been a wonderful challenge.

Elyse Knowles:

When I was approached to take on the role of Ophelia in Ophelia Thinks Harder, I was understandably overwhelmed and a little intimidated. The more I read the play and explored the character I realised the issues raised in Shakespeare's Hamlet and Jean Betts' Ophelia Thinks Harder are still relevant.

In many ways, our world is just as confusing as Ophelia's. What Jean Betts has done is take Shakespeare's Hamlet and twist it, leading the audience on a journey.

At the Star Court Theatre on Friday, May 8, from 8pm. Warning: Contains strong language and adult themes.