“As a performer, Spanou is extremely open, with a touch of shyness that makes her endearing”
If someone asked me to choose between abseiling down the Shard and seeing a show that involved audience interaction, I’d be up there faster than you could say, ‘It’s at the Camden People’s Theatre at 9pm, and it’s actually really good.’
There are two reasons why I would prefer to face my fear of heights than go to an interactive show. The first is that the thought of being chosen to participate makes me feel extremely nervous, to the extent that I can’t enjoy the show. The second is that interactive shows can be hit and miss. Whilst some can change the audience’s experience for the better, others fall flat in awkward ways.
With this in mind, I went into Ophelia Rewound with some trepidation, and emerged totally at ease. It is a therapeutic show in many ways, for both the audience and writer/performer Antigoni Spanou. Taking the Shakespearean character as her starting point, Spanou explores the isolating effects of mental health conditions. Since the deaths of her father and the man she loved, Ophelia has lived alone and on the brink of suicide. When a group of unexpected guests arrive, she invites them to share in her last two minutes, during which she dismantles her fears and emerges from the shadows of the men who wronged her.
Spanou tackles sensitive topics engagingly and empathetically, subtly merging sadness and humour to create spectacles out of the most ordinary moments. Ophelia’s attempt to mop up the water from her suicide attempt is awkwardly funny, whilst a game of Never Have I Ever is surprisingly heart-breaking. Each segment feels carefully crafted, both in terms of writing and production design. Joe Iredale’s set, comprised of four white boxes lined up against a wall, contain revelations that constantly surprise. Joseph Thorpe’s lighting design amplifies the emotional content of Spanou’s work, and are beautiful to watch in and of themselves.
As a performer, Spanou is extremely open, with a touch of shyness that makes her endearing. The moment where an audience member joins her on stage (shout out to Jonathan) feels genuine and heartfelt rather than awkward and forced. A personal favourite moment was when Ophelia makes a cup of tea for all the women in the audience. There was a quiet moment where we all sat together as a group, a moment where it didn’t feel like we were in a show at all, but in the company of a friend.
Ophelia Rewound is carefully crafted show about mental health that acts not only as entertainment, but as a tribute to our oft-forgotten inner strength. If I had to choose between abseiling down the Shard and seeing this show two or three more times, I’d be at the Camden People’s Theatre faster than you could say, ‘I am Ophelia, the one that the river cannot keep.’
Reviewed by Harriet Corke
Photography by Ali Wright
Camden People’s Theatre until 25th August as part of Camden Fringe 2019
“there are several original touches that bring a freshness of interpretation to Antic Disposition’s take on the Scottish Play”
Macbeth is about many things, but it begins and ends with a battle. Antic Disposition has chosen a particularly appropriate, though challenging, setting for their latest production of one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies.The Temple Church is an ancient building, long connected with warriors, from the Templars of the Crusades who gave the church its name, to the veterans of both world wars. The long, narrow, bare boards stage, designed traverse style by John Risebero stretches the length of the central aisle, with lighting hung at either end. It is a powerful space, and the actors use it well, but from the audience’s perspective, it is problematic. Firstly, because observing the action is rather like being at a tennis match, where one’s head whips back and forth to follow the players, and secondly, because the church, like all churches of this period, was designed to echo. This works well for the polyphonic sacred music of the twelfth century, but for the interactions between Macbeth’s dramatic characters, in highly complex language, often exchanged in the heat of battle — not so much. It is a problem that this production never quite overcomes, despite the ingenious staging.
That said, there are several original touches that bring a freshness of interpretation to Antic Disposition’s take on the Scottish Play. For example, director Ben Horslen makes the witches an essential part of the whole show by using them as servants as well. This means they are nearly always present on stage in some capacity, and often working their magic while going about domestic tasks. This makes intuitive sense, and avoids the hackneyed stereotypes of grizzled old women sitting in isolation on blasted heaths. By contrast, the witches in this production (portrayed by Robyn Holdaway, Bryony Tebbutt and Louise Templeton) are active and versatile — a combination that adds to their importance in Macbeth’s story. Their continued presence emphasises their power, and adds significance to the way in which they catch the ambitious Thane of Glamis in their diabolical traps. The Victorian themed costume designs of Hanna Wilkinson make the witches nicely unobtrusive in their servant roles as well.
The leading roles are competently managed with stand out performances by Nathan Hamilton as Malcolm (also doubling as a Murderer) and Peter Collis as Banquo (also doubling as the Doctor). Harry Anton, as Macbeth, partly solves the problem of the echoing Temple Church by lowering his voice and speaking more slowly and with great clarity. This technique works to great advantage with the soliloquies. He is partnered by Helen Millar as Lady Macbeth, who does her best with the most challenging role in this play, but this is a somewhat hesitant performance that fails to connect with the ruthless force that must drive Macbeth to murder. The Victorian theme of the costumes works less well for the leading characters, in particular during the fight scenes. The choice of daggers rather than swords makes the final confrontation of Macbeth and Macduff, for example, a more muted affair. But by the final scenes, the deepening gloom of the evening skies outside the Temple Church add nicely to the flickering candlelight within the church. It is a fittingly crepuscular conclusion to Antic Disposition’s production of Macbeth.