Monday October 10 at 8:00 p.m.
Schaubühne Berlin (Germany)
Hamlet [Italian premiere]
by William Shakespeare
directed by Thomas Ostermeier
with Urs Jucker (Claudius, ghost), Lars Eidinger (Hamlet), Judith Rosmair (Gertrud, Ophelia), Robert Beyer (Polonius, Osric), Sebastian Schwarz (Horatio, Guildenstern), Stefan Stern (Laertes, Rosencrantz)
sets Jan Pappelbaum
music Nils Ostendorf
translation and dramaturgy Marius von Mayenburg
video Sebastien Dupouey
lighting Erich Schneider
produced by Schaubühne Berlin
in co-production with the Hellenic Festival of Athens and the Festival d'Avignon
The production made its debut at the festival of Athens and shortly thereafter at Avignon in July 2008, in September it played in Berlin, followed by the festivals of Sydney, Jerusalem and Buenos Aires, to name just a few, and after Venice, to which it comes for the first time in Italy for the Biennale and the 41st International Theatre festival, it will go to the Barbican in London, and then on tour through June 2012. We are talking about Hamlet – a mainstay of European culture – according to Thomas Ostermeier.
The forty-two year old German director, solidly established at the helm of the Schaubühne in Berlin, the German theatre that has contributed so substantially to the renewal of the scene since the years of Peter Stein, addresses the immensity of Shakespearean theatre with a Teutonic flair that knows no reverential awe. He condenses the five acts into two and a half hours, translates – with the complicity of playwright Marius von Mayenburg – the luxuriant poetic language of the Bard into the linearity of German prose, multiplies by three the most famous and abused monologue of all time, “to be or not to be” (“Everyone knows or thinks they know this monologue, but I am not sure I really understand its meaning. This is why we treat it as a piece of music played on different instruments: drums, electric guitar, violin”); he stages the funeral of Hamlet’s father, who is already dead before the action begins in the original play, distributes the over twenty characters amongst the six actors of his close-knit collective, accentuating, in the apparent confusion of roles, Hamlet’s confusion and the fact that nothing is as it seems; he transmutes the image of a “pale prince” into that of a horrible fat young man, immerses the play into a tempest of sounds and images, has Gertrude sing “Claudius my drug” from “Tu es ma came” by Carla Bruni…
As emphasized in the presentation notes for the play, Shakespeare describes the Royal Danish court as a corrupt political system that will become a tangle of paranoias for Hamlet. Murder, betrayal, simulation and sexuality are used as weapons in the struggle to maintain power. Unable to deal with the situation or to fight against the cynical rules of the Court, Hamlet procrastinates and directs his violence against himself. His ability to analyze pros and cons becomes an insurmountable obstacle to the achievement of his objectives, and as the last person with scruples in a system with none, he is doomed to fail. With its focus on the paradox of an inept protagonist, Hamlet remains a valid analysis of the intellectual dilemma between the complexity of thought and political action. Hamlet’s progressive loss of touch with reality, his disorientation, the manipulation of truth and identity are reflected in the acting style, which emphasizes pretence and disguise.
Thomas Ostermeier made his controversial Italian debut at the Theatre Biennale in 1999 with Shopping and Fucking by Mark Ravenhill, introducing himself as the director-advocate of new playwriting – the post-Thatcher writing of Sarah Kane, Enda Walsh and Ravenhill – with its adrenalin-filled mise-en-scènes, which radiated the physical energy that was just what the younger generations needed. Today Ostermeier takes on the great classics of the theatre, such as Ibsen and Shakespeare, with stage productions that never lack his scathing touch. One of the authors in highest demand at the international festivals, Ostermeier has been not only the director-in-residence and member of the artistic direction panel of the Schaubühne since September 1999, he was also an associated artist at the Festival of Avignon in 2002 and since last year he has been President of the Deutsch-Französischer Kulturrat (DKFR), the French-German council of culture. The winner of many awards for his productions – the Nestroy Prize, the Politika Prize, the Grand Prix de la Critique de France, the Barcelona Critics Prize, the critic’s award at the Kontakt festival in Torun, in 2009 Ostermeier was named Officier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.
To stick to the traditional interpretation of Shakespeare's Hamlet or not to stick - that was the question for Thomas Ostermeier. Luckily, the director took the second option and he has created a riveting production that tears apart the familiar text and puts it together in such a way that it almost feels like watching an entirely new work. At the swirling eye of this theatrical storm is the utterly brilliant Lars Eidinger, who plays the title character with a wit and passion that blows all previous pretty-boy interpretations of the character of Hamlet out of the water. (…) Purists will sigh and mutter about the liberties Ostermeier took with the text, cutting much of Shakespeare's script, rearranging it and adding colloquialisms. But everyone else will love this rebirthing of a classic.
Alex Lalak, The Daily Telegraph, 12 January 2010
The furious Lars Eidinger makes his Danish prince fly off the handle - fascinatingly, and in a way his schoolboy's wisdom would never have imagined. (...) Eidinger executes a brain-meltdown of madness, running amok without recourse to physical violence, but rather in the violence of the word. Each step trumps the last one's rhetoric, as if the hero-of-the-word had need of ersatz speech therapy by running his mouth. He calls his plan "making a fuss and a racket", and he rolls and blasts over the stage like a Gollum on ecstasy, a pudgy momma's boy with light blond hair and the endless waves of frustration of an alpha-child spoiled to the core by prosperity. He is an oedipal brute, an entertainer, and an extreme athlete of the theatre all in one. An exploded nerd who plays so long with his horrible jests that he ends up the victim of the insanity he believed he was only pretending.
Christopher Schmidt, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 21 July 2008
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