Iambic pentameter (aka blank verse) is known for being the rhythm that most closely approximates everyday speech in English. Most of us meet it for the first time in the plays of Shakespeare. With its repetitive de-DUM de-DUM de-DUM de-DUM de-DUM spring on each line of the verse, despite – or perhaps because it’s closely associated with Shakespeare – IP often gets a bad working over in the hands of inexperienced actors. In a misguided attempt to make it sound more ‘real,’ all the insistence and momentum in the rhythm can get flattened out and choked. Perhaps even more unfortunately, it can be spoken in a kind of reverential ‘poetic’ voice which casts the content and the speaker into some kind of other world divorced from reality. IP is full of traps for the young player.
And now, here’s playwright Steven Berkoff appropriating the old master’s metric verse form for The Secret Love Life of Ophelia, currently playing at !Metro Arts Studio in Brisbane. I started by mentioning IP because one of the real delights of this Fractal Theatre production, directed by Brenna-Lee Cooney, is that the two actors in the production, Eugene Gilfedder (Hamlet) and Mary Eggleston (Ophelia) handle the verse so well; it’s earthy, muscular, lyrical, downright dirty (but in a soft-porn kind of way) often delicate, and always affecting. Neither actor is the slightest bit disarmed by the text, in fact they chew it up and spit it out – as utterly befits this 21st century, retro-Elizabethan, poetic psycho-drama. Phew! Hoorah for them and hoorah for Berkoff; it’s great to hear such tough verse done proud. Continue reading The Secret Love Life of Ophelia (Review): Fractal Theatre