Based on Ophelia’s story in Hamlet, “O” makes use of a hidden metaphor in Shakespeare’s work, making a compelling case for the critical importance of personal agency for young women.

There are around 31,000 words in Hamlet, and Ophelia is given 1,000 – a kind of literary glass ceiling – yet we remember her as strongly as Hamlet. Her journey is iconic, strikingly real to us. In a few short scenes we watch as her father, her brother and her lover rob her of her agency, and ultimately her life. Even her name resonates with meaning ‘to avail’ – to be available.

The central role of Ophelia in “O” is written for an actor in her 60s, at the height of her power – the time when most women are passed over for someone younger, because of our obsession with youth. It is a tour de force role written for an elder who we can look up to.

The premise of this play is that Ophelia didn’t die, she drifted downstream and into the world of Shakespeare’s canon, where she has been stuck for 400 years. She is able to comment on our culture’s treatment of women throughout the centuries.

Rehearsed locally and organised by young women, “O” creates opportunities for participation and mentoring.


The performance piece is designed to tour and support the broader project, complimenting the Colourathon, the workshops and Project O online nationally, to help raise the importance of personal agency for young women in changing attitudes and preventing family violence.


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