William Shakespeare

REVIEW: Ophelia (2018)

Ophelia (Daisy Ridley) comes of age as lady-in-waiting for Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts), and her singular spirit captures Hamlet’s (George MacKay) affections. As lust and betrayal threaten the kingdom, Ophelia finds herself trapped between true love and controlling her own destiny.

Ophelia, as you might’ve guessed, is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet but putting Ophelia front and centre. As someone who only knew the bare minimum of what happened in Hamlet, you don’t need to know the story before watching Ophelia, though I’m sure if you did know it you might notice more of the things they put a spin on.

The performances in Ophelia are not that great, and in some cases are just bad. The likes of Watts and Clive Owen (who plays Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius) are fine but never really go full throttle on inhabiting characters have the potential to be interesting and entertaining. MacKay and Ridley have very little chemistry, and unfortunately Ridley’s performance leaves a lot to be desired. For instance, there’s some scenes that are supposed to be big, emotional moments based on other characters reactions and the score, but from Ridley’s performance you wouldn’t really think Ophelia is that affected by what is going on.

The period costumes and setting all look lovely. The costumes and makeup during a costume ball sequence are especially interesting, with Ridley having blue face paint around her eyes, contrasting with her red hair. Also, in another party scene, George MacKay has a lot of eyeliner on which is certainly a look.

The 1 hour 40-minute runtime does end up dragging a bit. The plot meanders along slowly and while every effort is made to put Ophelia front and centre of the action and in charge of her own destiny, in reality she’s still a victim of circumstance and the men in her life – Hamlet, Claudius, her father – still often have more power over her life than she does.

The finale is somewhat satisfying as all the tensions between characters reaches boiling point and the threat of conflict with a neighbouring country comes to fruition. However, it feels almost too little too late and it doesn’t have the emotional heft that you’d want in an epic finale.

Ophelia is a bit of a dull spin on a classic story. While the idea of having this story told by a female character who is unfairly treated in the source material, the end product isn’t as interesting as that scenario. 2/5.

REVIEW: Othello by William Shakespeare

The tragedy of Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army, who is misled by his disloyal officer Iago leading to suspicion and revenge.

Othello is a Shakespeare play that I never read during my school career – for me it was Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet, Henry V and Hamlet that I had to study in either school or at university. I knew nothing about Othello before starting it except that the titular character is usually played by a black man.

I really enjoyed Othello. While it is certainly a Shakespearian tragedy – miscommunication and death abound – but there’s also this very dark thread of humour running through it that I loved. I did find myself wondering if I was classed as a comedy because from the outset Iago is being sneaky and telling lies to different people to get a reaction, but pretty much every other character says at some point how loyal and trustworthy he is. It made me laugh out loud a couple of times because it’s that obvious to the audience watching/reading what Iago is doing but everyone else is so obtuse.

You never really get why Iago has decided to pit all these people against one another. There’s certainly some jealousy there but even he sometimes questions his actions and the consequence he may face. But that still doesn’t get him to stop. He reminded me of the trickster archetype as he uses his wits, and other people, to try and achieve his goals while misleading everyone around him. He’s definitely one of my favourite Shakespeare characters.

Othello is a play I enjoyed reading and found it relatively easy to understand from the outset. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for performances of Othello in the future, and it’s a play I’d recommend to people who may usually be put off by Shakespeare’s work as it’s easy to follow and features some interesting characters. 4/5.

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Top Ten Books I Remember Studying for School

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature run by BrokeAndBookish each week. This week the topic is a Back to School freebie, so we can write about anything that relates to books and school. I’ve decided my list will be made up of the books (and plays) I remember studying in school, college, and even university. These are the books that were memorable to me for some reason, whether I liked the book or hated it.

Holes by Louis Sachar
I think we read this in English when I was in about Year 6. I really enjoyed it but I don’t think we ever got to the end in class so I read it in its entirety on my kindle a few years ago.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
I’m pretty sure this is the only Dickens book I’ve read and I read it in my Year 8 English class. It was a lot more easier to read and more accessible than I thought it would be.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
This is the book we had to practically learn by heart for our GCSE English exam. I still can remember a lot of it and I revisited Of Mice and Men this past year when I’ve been working at a school and they are still studying that book.  (more…)