The Greenwich Theatre has announced a new online premiere featuring an appearance from Helen Mirren.

(c)David Venni

It has been announced that Greenwich Theatre patron and Oscar winning actress Helen Mirren will support the venue’s debut online production – a new version of Steven Berkoff’s The Secret Love Life of Ophelia – with a special guest appearance.

Berkoff’s play has been written as an exchange of letters between Hamlet and Ophelia, offering parallels of the events in Shakespeare’s play but also offering insight into the way in which their relationship develops, from first meeting to tragic end.

The play, directed by James Haddrell, was set to be a piece for two actors on stage, but Greenwich Theatre has secured Berkoff’s endorsement to reimagine the letters as video messages for this contemporary production which brings together a cast of 39 young, emerging or marginalised actors to each perform one of the letters. To complete the play, it has been confirmed that Helen Mirren will make a special appearance as Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother.

Talking about the news, Greenwich Theatre’s artistic director James Haddrell said, “it is well known that theatres are fighting for their survival following the worldwide impact of COVID-19. Established actors, creative teams,stage management, crew and venue staff are all waiting to discover when their next job will come along. However, there are also thousands of young professional actors who are now graduating from drama school with no potential employment in sight, and thousands more who are routinely
overlooked for roles like Ophelia and Hamlet because of long-held expectations about how a piece of Shakespeare should be cast. We are delighted to be able to kick-start so many careers and give access to these major roles to performers who may not have had the opportunity to play a leading Shakespearean character. I could not be more delighted that our patron, Helen Mirren, has agreed to support this production. This will inevitably increase the audience for the piece, and the more people
who see these young actors at work the better – from agents and casting directors who can open up routes to employment, to the audiences that they have all worked for years to be able to entertain.”

The Secret Love Life Of Ophelia will premiere on Greenwich Theatre’s YouTube channel on Friday 31st July at 7.30pm, and will remain available to watch for free until Friday 14th August.