Thine evermore, most dear lady, whilst this machine is to him. Hamlet.
These words conclude Hamlet’s famous letter to Ophelia, in which he tries to tell the only person he loves that he’s withdrawing from the structure of norms. The word »machine« only appears once in all of Shakespeare. It refers to the body, which, during the early part of the Enlightenment, was often referred to as a machine, as a marvel composed of many parts. Shakespeare’s play itself is also such a machine of theatrical marvels. A reflection on death and religion, on norms and insanity, on power and powerlessness. And besides all this, it’s also a grand text about the theatre itself.
In 1977, Heiner Müller adapted this text in Die Hamletmaschine, which carries »machine« in the title. In a radical fashion, Müller questions the position of the intellectual in a world that’s out of joint. He dissects Shakespeare and then reassembles the fragments that remain. Who’s playing which game – with whom and for whom – who’s a spectator and who’s an actor in the play between reality and the stage?
The Exil Ensemble has been part of the Gorki since the 2016/17 season. Together with Sebastian Nübling, the ensemble’s seven actors are investigating this and other texts, as well as researching their own positions in an open ended project. While Müller’s text has become part of the canon in Germany, it takes on a very different political urgency in the parts of the world that are struggling desperately for political change.
Premiere: 24/February 2018
Photo: Esra Rotthoff