The Hamletmachine, Mozarteum University, Austria

The Hamletmachine is based on an exemplary post-dramatic theatrical text directed by Turkish director, actress, and translator of theatre plays Ebru Borchers, who finished her masters at Mozarteum University in Salzburg. Before this performance, Ebru directed Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Ulrich Hub’s Kangaroo like yourself. The cast, Laura Kuhr, Darios Vaysi, and Carolina Braun, are also master degree students from Mozarteum University. A 44-years-old post-modernist political, philosophical and commentary drama is written by acclaimed German playwright Heiner Mueller who loosely drew inspiration from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Playwrights of the 18th-century literary movement Sturm und Drang celebrated Shakespeare as well for his emotionally complex characters and renunciation of traditional dramatic unities of time, place, and action. The cyclical text of the performance does not have a conventional plot nor dialogue, the character attribution is vague and hardly defined; it is based on fragmented sequences of bilingual monologues separated in scenes and declaratiely spoken by three performers. It is rich with references to World War II, Communism, and has layered meaning, its interpretation is open and partially dependent on the audience. The common themes are hard to fully grasp, as there are so many – war, machinery, politics, ideologies, intellectuals, consumerism, reproduction, feminism, and toxic masculinity. Just like in her performance Kangaroo like yourself, Borchers is exploring gender identity and what it means to be a man or a woman in today’s world. The character of Ophelia, stating I tear the photographs of the men who I loved and who used me on the bed on the table on the chair on the floor, is played by a male actor, Vaysi, wearing a gray dress, and Hamlet, torn by inner conflict and declaring I want to be a woman, is interchangeably embodied by Kuhr and Braun. Verbal repetition of lines is frequently used in monologues to add to explosive emotional dynamics, in Borcher’s interpretation of Mueller’s characters, Hamlet and Ophelia are desperate, angry, and sorrowful prisoners of a collapsing, anarchic, and an almost dystopian world in which we have all turned into chimeras, theorized and manufactured hybrids of machines and organisms; in short, cyborgs. The washed-out scenographical elements consisting of metal reflectors strung around the stage and cart are minimalistic and, along with the pale uniformed costumes, support the author’s dark cynical vision. Chairs are used in several non-verbal scenes in which all 3 actors are geometrically situated across the stage and mechanically move their stiff bodies as a single organism, as well as ladders serving as the link between the two-stage floors. Borcher pays detailed attention to stage perspectives and relational positions of actors, and from it stems a commentary of social reality and its hierarchy. Scenes focusing on corporeality are intertwined with video-screen excerpts showing closeups of actors’ faces and reminding us of their humanity. Vaysi musically follows some of his most brutal lines with acoustic guitar and creates friction between the gentleness of the string and the meaning of the text. Industrial and electronic sounds are frequently heard, as well as haunting screams and auditive excerpts of the voice of Marx in various languages, and the actors unexpectedly release the built-up tension in a half- cathartic dance with the Turkish rock music video playing in the background (choreography is signed by Azahara Sanz & Mirjam Klebel). The Hamletmachine is a wild, fierce, and auto-ironical performance criticizing various post-modern concepts and European history.

AUTHOR: Ajla Medanhodzic