INTRODUCTION D. Bruno Starrs Synopsis - 'Hamlet + Ophelia = ?' Character breakdown Staging of the play CONTENTS D. BRUNO STARRS HAMLET + OPHELIA = ? POST SCRIPTUM About the author
D. BRUNO STARRS Synopsis - 'Hamlet + Ophelia = ?' This short one act play tells the story of the last few minutes in the lives of a re-imagined Hamlet and Ophelia. Their post-apocalyptic world is crumbling around them and their disillusionment and disgust at the world causes them to make the ultimate rebellion; suicide. Along with the surreal staging of the Prince's evil King Claudius and Queen Gertrude, apparently alive and looking down on them from their portrait frames, this play crosses other boundaries imposed by standard theatrical conventions by placing actors in the audience, who, in the climactic finish, take Hamlet's advice and join him and Ophelia in the noble act of self-slaughter. Described by Linda Hassell, script assessor for Playlab Queensland, as; "Existentialist in nature, the piece portrays the pointlessness of existence, metaphorically depicting those very fine lines between patricide and genocide, death and regeneration, sexuality and terrorism and hope and despair . . . a very (dare I say it?) profound piece of writing." 'Hamlet + Ophelia = ?' is not for everyone. It is deliberately provocative and disturbing. The author has tried to push the concept of theatre as entertainment out the door and onto the garbage heap and he makes no apologies for this. Another less flattering comment than Ms. Hassell's came from the A.C.T. Writers Centre when Jose Marques asked; "What are you trying to do, drive people away from the theatre?" To this the author should have answered "Sure, why not?" Character breakdown Hamlet is an 18 to 30 year old male of Caucasian descent. He is angry and more than a little emotionally unstable. His girlfriend Ophelia is about the same age and ethnicity but is more resigned to her fate than angry. Both have suffered incredibly and unfairly. The actors playing the King and Queen are smug, fat and older. They exist as video images within their portrait frames and do not talk. The actors in the audience are to blend in with the real members of the audience seamlessly. Staging of the play The author has imagined this play being performed in a converted squash court with the audience watching from the tiered seats above. A rope ladder should connect the audience with the actors below. The stage setting should suggest an industrial wasteland encroaching upon the caved in walls of a war-time bomb shelter which has been decked out in opulent fittings fit for royalty but which now appears decrepit.
D. BRUNO STARRS HAMLET + OPHELIA = ? A one act play (Setting: a futuristic bomb-shelter, disintegrating as war rages outside. This play could be staged in a converted squash court, with a precarious rope ladder leading up the 'fourth wall' to the tiered gallery above or if in a conventional theatre, along the central aisle. There are actors placed in the audience ready to follow the stage directions at the end of the play. The actors playing Hamlet and Ophelia may approach the audience via this ladder but must return to the stage area for the ending. On stage there is a four-poster bed, a TV screen flickering noiselessly (but lapsing occasionally into patches of war footage), a wheel-chair, a large roll of white gauze, a portrait of King Claudius on one wall and a portrait of Queen Gertrude on the other wall. The portraits are actually video images, which, as the drama develops, react to the actions of Hamlet and Ophelia. The floor is littered with empty 'rations' tins, a tape-recorder, syringe disposal units and a wheel! barrow piled high with white powder with large hypodermic syringes scattered nearby. From offstage can be heard occasional sounds of war; bombs, gunfire, explosions, screaming, chainsaws etc.). HAMLET (In dishevelled military dress, sitting on the bed, with his back to the audience. He appears to be masturbating) G . . . Ger . . . Gertrude! (Eventually he pulls up his jodhpurs and wipes his hands. Turning around, he is surprised to see the audience and addresses them directly) What! You sorry fuckers again! That? (Indicating to where he was seated and laughing maniacally) Well, Nero fiddled while Rome burned and while I’m no musician I do like to play my organ. And so you gargoyles show up again. Huh! Pathetic voyeurs! Go get a real life, or better still . . . get a real death. Ah, but I see some new faces amongst you. Permit me to introduce myself. (Bowing elaborately) My role is 'Hamlet.' Not Adolph. Not Idi. Not Osama. Hamlet am I, (Shrugging and gesturing to his groin) . . . with too, too solid flesh. I am . . . (long pause) myself. (Looking about him in despair) As is all else here. (Shaking his head as if to clear the demons that are the audience from his mind, he collapses on the ground centre-stage and cries in anguish) Fuck this living hell! Wouldst that I could melt and absolve the issues and doubts and sins that make up Hamlet and resolve myself into a dew. (Singing mockingly) 'Adieu! Adieu! To you and you and you!' (Pause) What am I saying? Actually nothing, I'm just reciting. Too long at Wittgenstein . . . I know there is no everlasting . . . or . . . maybe . . . Oh, that the 'everlasting' had not fixed his canon against self-slaughter! No matter, I can defend myself come the Judgement. I know my rights and I shall have them! . . . A pure heart needs no lawyers . . . 'More weight, more weight' I will cry! But first the facts must be documented. (HAMLET picks up the tape recorder microphone, stands, and speaks as if dictating) I have seen my father's spirit in arms! His spirit! A most questionable spirit - or maybe a germ warfare induced hallucination? (Ponders before continuing) What did you see my blue-eyed son? (Pause) The dead eyes opened and it . . . he . . . compelled me to revenge his most foul and unnatural murder! Yea, my father murdered and his poisonous deliverer his own brother! My own uncle! Who, even now, not two months hence, delivers his vile seed unto the festering womb of . . . wait for it . . . my mother! A womb with a view to stinking, sinking bogs. This is my wide awake nightmare, thus; to die is to sleep. No more, else, perchance, to dream. And such dreams must surely be sweeter than this nightmarish being! (HAMLET stops recording and addresses the portrait of his mother, Gertrude the Queen) My mother, the none too fresh, none too blushing bride. Have you forgotten your lines, dear mother in this outrageous comedy of fatal errors? (HAMLET shouts to offstage) Prompt! Prompt! (He reads the inscription on the portrait) Ah, here it is; "A mother's womb is not a one way street." (Pause) What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Some kind of excuse? Oh, that I could stuff all your rotting corpses down the royal lavatory so this Danish pastry palace would block up and overflow and drown in its own royal shit! (HAMLET sees OPHELIA enter. She is dressed provocatively and seems to be flirting with unseen men in the wings. She sees HAMLET, smiles wryly, and exposes a breast, or if the actor be modest, a bra) But soft . . . (HAMLET again gestures to his groin) . . . here comes Ophelia. (Aside) They say she is fair - I can sure as hell bear them witness! (Singing softly) 'I see you baby; shakin' that 'ass, shakin' that ass, shakin' that ass.' (OPHELIA pre-occupies herself with filing her nails) And virtuous; none can disprove it; doctors these days can mend anything, it seems ... except the memory. And she is wise - but for loving me; 'twas no addition to her wit - while it lasted. (Sarcastically) 'Did my heart even love until now. Forswear it, sight, for I never saw true beauty 'til this night.' . . . But what use be beauty? (Shouting) Hey, Philly! Here, Philly, Philly, Philly! OPHELIA (Sensually, she approaches HAMLET) Would you care to eat . . . my . . . heart, fair Prince Harry, I mean Hamlet? (HAMLET accepts her caresses, then breaks off abruptly) HAMLET Fuck off! You . . . you . . . thing! You and your count - ry matters. For thy sake, get thee to a nunnery. Wouldst thou lie with me in beds and verses and courts and beget such sinners as mine family begets. Or wouldst thou forge a career from the royal flush of your legs, your ass, your breasts and thy labia? No! No! No! Better to be a fishmonger's daughter, poor, unsullied, and resting in peace. OPHELIA 'Tis true, my Lord, but . . . HAMLET (Gently) Get thee to a nunnery. OPHELIA Lord, we know what we are, but not what we may be. (HAMLET grabs a fistful of white powder, goes to the bed and prepares large syringes. Pause. OPHELIA regains her composure and with it her determination) OPHELIA (Picking up the tape recorder and speaking into it) O, suffragette sisters, my life is all suffering! Dear Aunty Greer, sister Faluda; what else can I do? Sometimes they are like apes that mow and chatter at me, and after do bite me. Then like hedgehogs which lie tumbling in my barefoot way and mount their pricks against my football. Aye, the world seems full of pricks! Sometimes I am all wounds from these adders which do hiss me into madness! (Pause) Or is it the powder that fell from that letter? (OPHELIA ponders before noticing the audience) Oh, goody! Witnesses. Permit me to introduce myself. (OPHELIA curtsies elaborately) My role is 'Ophelia.' Not Imelda. Not Winnie. Not even Brittney. More like 'Miss Julie' am I, and I am never going to ride through Paris in a sports car with the cool wind in my hair. I am the deserted housewife with her head in the oven, her brain addled by prescription drugs, her veins stippled with trackmarks. I am like the lonely spinster making that final, desperate, dishevelled leap in front of that unstoppable tube-steak-train. (OPHELIA stops recording and speaks to herself) Does Hamlet even care? He used to . . . he had meat aplenty of his own before the funeral meats were baked. (OPHELIA starts recording again) I could have been like the Bobbitt bitch or the Handcocked Filipino widow, but instead, now, I will cease torturing myself and I will destroy the battlefield of my existence - where my only weapons are my breasts, my vagina and ultimately, my womb. I will destroy all. I accept that my home will be like the watery uterus from which we all arose. Ah, a rose is still a rose by any other name. Yes, the rivers shall keep me soon and I will forget the angry fuckings I have endured. I will wash from my body the semen splashed upon me, the social standing, sitting, falling and splaying on the bed, the kitchen table or the back seat of that passing car. From now on the milk of my breasts will curdle into poison and I will smother between my cellulite thighs the world I could have given birth to. If I must walk into another cheating man's boudoir it will be with a new weapon concealed; a knife-sharp determination to die at his hands. Is that suicide? I don't know and I don't ! care where or how they bury me! The solution is nigh and I am . . . Patient. (OPHELIA stops recording, sits in the wheelchair and wheels herself to the side) HAMLET (Avoiding OPHELIA as they pass and he comes centrestage) This world, this society, this information superhighway makes me sick! (He squirts blood from a syringe at the TV screen. It explodes) Nauseau! The ready-made capitalist newspeak of television with its pre-digested drug-like cheerfulness; 'Give us this day our daily drive-by shooting, aeroplane hijacking or schoolyard massacre. It is thy bread, they wine, they holy ghostliness.' Aargh! I vomit, induced by the lies generated by seekers of power, position, votes, bank balances or merely the insolence of office . . . Even worse are the lies created to make us hope for a blissful afterlife. Lies they actually come to believe themselves. Huh! (HAMLET picks up the tape recorder and starts recording again) What is belief? The refusal to acknowledge logic! You poor suckers - you are expecting 72 virgins when you die for Allah. Idiots! What a con job! They will always be virgins – you’ll never 'know' them sexually. And Heaven? Another con job! Life is only rewarding when it presents obstacles to be overcome; if there is a Heaven it is probably a frustrating state of mind-numbing boredom. (Sarcastically) All hail Christmas day! All hail the Koran. All hail the Gods of Nicotine, Ronald McDonald, Always Cola and the Bill Gatespeares of this world! Bill Gatespeare? Diarrhoea! (OPHELIA wheels herself centrestage and waits. HAMLET, realising her unspoken request, begins winding the white gauze around her body and the wheelchair) OPHELIA (With mock fear) Lord Hamlet, with your doublet all unbraced, your stockings fouled, ungartered and down to your ankles, and with a look so piteous in purport, as if you had been loosed out of hell, do speak of horrors! And I fear will enact them! Henceforth, I do repel your letters and deny thee access to mine body. Thou art banished from the court of this woman. Indeed, this noble court will claim us all soon. I have read your script and I, too, will . . . play. HAMLET (To OPHELIA) Am I still part of this Elizabethan farce? Well, I withdraw. My drama has reached its finale. Tomorrow is cancelled - call my agent! I'm still a fucking Prince; I must be able to decree some fucking thing and I decree 'Endgame.' No more 'Waiting for Godot.' (To the audience) God, oh, God, oh, God, oh . . . though I doubt you exist, get your lawyers ready cos I'm a comin' for ya! But first, I'm pulling up stumps and all other impurities of friend and foe and pissing off to a nice, dark corner. (Waving his syringe, he addresses OPHELIA) I'm gonna have a blast as I blast off this mortal coil! (HAMLET again addresses the audience directly) The salesman has died, Mr. Miller, but no one can find the body. Tis at dinner perhaps. Like sanity in this vast wasteland it has disappeared! Why? How? Because this rotten Denmark is a microcosm of this disabled Earth. This crumbling edifice of human civilisation is doomed. Gaia is gasping her last. Do I want to be there at the desperate, flailing end - pleading innocence like a docile lamb to some malevolent divine entity feigning ignorance at the deception that is God-given life? No! If nothing else I am heroic enough to demand to meet death on my own terms. I will resolve myself to a dew; a pure, pure, soothing dew. And so, though the states' enemy, in its countless millions, looms upon the horizon, they present no threat to me. I am my destiny's master. OPHELIA As am I, Lord Hamlet. The woman is perfected, her dead body wears the smile of accomplishment. HAMLET (To CLAUDIUS’ portrait) Hear us Claudius? We are all maggots fodder! I needst do naught and thou wilt die at the hands of the infidels - or the faithful . . . (laughing) . . . whoever get in first! And yet I needst must curse thee and render thou foul heart from thy murderous breast! (HAMLET slashes the portrait with his syringe. It falls to the ground) He is hit! A palpable hit! Ha! I deliver thee! (HAMLET addresses GERTRUDE’S portrait) And you, calculating bitch of a Queen, have proved the rules matter not, so take thine own poison, slag of a mother. (HAMLET squirts Gertrude's portrait with his blood from a syringe. It falls to the ground) I deliver thee, too. (Pause) Adieu, all must die, adieu, adieu, adieu, farewell. OPHELIA (Reciting softly into the tape recorder HAMLET holds up for her) ‘The raging rocks and shivering shocks, Shall break the locks of prison’s gates (HAMLET joins in) And Phibbus' car shall shine from far, And make and mar The foolish fates.' OPHELIA This was lofty. This was noble. Abandon government! Abandon ideology! HAMLET This was noble. Abandon www.bush.com! OPHELIA Abandon religion! Abandon banks! Abandon false hope! HAMLET They are not the sponsors of this performance! (Smiling, directly to the audience) Why suffer the anxiety of the unexpectedness of death? Meet it on your own terms! Do not be an 'Everyman,' unprepared for death and fearful of the inevitable. You had no control over your entry but you can be the master of your exit. (HAMLET indicates toward the powder) Help yourselves. You know you want to. OPHELIA We are more than the soft, crushed flesh of our bodies, we are strengthened and empowered by the control of our own demise. We engage with the cosmos with a clarity of purpose. Our eyes are open even as we die. God slash Allah is a lie. Sweet dreams, fair Prince, this is noble. (HAMLET wraps the remaining gauze around OPHELIA'S face, smothering her. He injects and collapses face down in OPHELIA'S lap. Increasingly loud, a ticking sound erupts into the sound of a huge explosion as the lights black out. Unopened syringes descend upon the audience and some of the actors present in the audience flee, loudly vowing never to return to the theatre again. Some of the other actors in the audience accept HAMLET’S advice, climb down onto the stage area, inject themselves and die) -CURTAIN- Copyright (c) 2002 D. Bruno Starrs
About the author D. Bruno Starrs holds a Bachelor of Theatre (Honours) from James Cook University and a Master of Film and TV from Bond University - both are in sunny Queensland, Australia. He is presently working on a stage adaptation of Goethe's 'Werther' for his Ph. D. at the University of Melbourne. When not in Australia he can usually be found teaching English somewhere in South East Asia. About the author D. Bruno Starrs holds a Bachelor of Theatre (Honours) from James Cook University and a Master of Film and TV from Bond University - both are in sunny Queensland, Australia. He is presently working on a stage adaptation of Goethe's 'Werther' for his Ph. D. at the University of Melbourne. When not in Australia he can usually be found teaching English somewhere in South East Asia. The author writes: 'I do not require payment or royalties for the right to perform this piece but I would request from any theatre companies courageous enough to do so to provide me with details - I'd especially like to get a poster or any other publicity.' Queries can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
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