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Edinburgh Fringe 2009

Ophelia (Drowning)

3 Bugs Fringe Theatre

Venue: Sweet Grassmarket Swimming Pool, Apex Hotel


Low Down

The officials will deny it, but there seems to be a consensus that it ain’t the fringe until somebody stages a classic in an offbeat location. Medea in a maternity ward, for instance. 3Bugs deliver on this with Ophelia (Drowning) which manages the neat feat of being both title and synopsis.


If you’ve ever been in love with someone you shouldn’t have fallen in love with, you’ll recognise the themes here. Very often, we see Ophelia as some personification of madness, but then, how are we meant to react when someone that has been our whole life rejects us entirely?

It’s quite lovely how the audience genuinely have no idea what to expect. When the company hands out iced water to combat against the atmosphere of the pool, some are confused; it simply hasn’t occurred to them that the area of the pool might be warm. And, it’s warm. There’s a close, oppressive atmosphere as you walk in, and the silence is that of a church. When a character hits the water, the resulting waves hit against the water filter, creating a sound like a dooming clock. Lines echo throughout the night, not just because of the nature of the venue, but also because they’re actually repeated, finding new meanings in the same words again and again.
Helen Morton’s gloriously cracked voice husks across the water as she brokenly negotiates her way through a collection of brutal love songs, her useless wedding veil trailing ahead of her in the water like a precursor of her own ghost, while other characters indulge in a lot of kissing, thrusting and sighing in this pool, all warm, wet and heated, and savagely ignoring her.   We’re told that Serafina Kiszko’s character is new, created for this production, but she could just as easily be interpreted as a splinter of Ophelia’s paranoia, or a memory of herself in happier times.
This is a beautiful bruise of a play, and short– the length of this pool is just forty minutes – and there are very limited seats. Truth is that if you’re reading this today, the seats are likely already sold. Prepare in advance, and ensure you get a seat before the 18th.