Following the tremendous success with Hamlet at this year’s National Shakespeare Festival, Aranui High School presents Ophelia Thinks Harder. Taking Hamlet as its starting point, this witty exploration of what it is like to be a woman at the mercy of male tragic stereotypes. Ophelia Thinks Harder, written by Jean Betts, has become one of New Zealand’s more successful plays.
Year 13 student, Sara Ninness reprises the role of Ophelia, but in a very different context. In the previous incarnation, Aranui High School’s Hamlet was set in pre-European Māori society. In Ophelia Thinks Harder, Hamlet becomes a strutting irrelevance, epitomising the male ego at its worst. Instead it is Ophelia who is centre stage and she gets all the big speeches. The play will satisfy those who know Hamlet, but also works in its own right as gloriously funny, and at times - irreverent, romp. Aranui High School’s production has heightened the post-modernist approach to the play by the use of much anachronistic modern music and costuming along with Elizabethan forms.
This riotous reworking of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy features Ophelia, her maid, St Joan and a Queen who gladly offers some ‘motherly’ advice: “Oh Sweetie Darling - he’s a man, they can do what they like. Men are the centre of the world. Best to ignore them - smile sweetly… and be careful not to wobble.”
Awards for this play include: Listener’s Choice for Best Play and The New Zealand Radio Awards - Best Dramatic Production finalist.
Reviewers have uniformly praised this ‘thoroughly revised’ version of Hamlet:
“Set in a sprawl of bedding and rumpled clothes, gorgeously costumed in vibrant grunge, the play is a passionate exploration of female myth and reality. Patriarchy, marriage, the cult of the virgin, the countless sophisms used to put women down - all get a right going over” ~ Listener
“History is re-written, speeches are doctored an, best of all, the best lines go to the incredibly hard-thinking Ophelia … Hamlet is doctored with one mighty sharp blade to make this a fantastic farce to rival the best of Shakespeare’s. Don’t miss this perfect play pillaging” ~ Capital Times
Aranui High School presents Ophelia Thinks Harder by Jean Betts, 9-12 August 7.30pm.
Adults $10, students $8. Tickets from Student Services Office.