If you fancy a break from all this #Shakespeare400 traditional stuff that’s filling the various theatres in London at the moment, but at the same time want to see something Shakespeare related, then I can heartily recommend a trip to the Ugly Duck, on London’s Tanner Street where Collide Theatre are putting on a site specific promenade performance of Heiner Müller’s Hamletmachine.
As with most promenade performances, it’s very difficult to tell the reader too much without giving away any spoilers. In fact it is very difficult to tell you anything of the story itself. Even Wikipedia, that repository of all human knowledge these days, only has this to say on Hamletmachine – The play is constituted of scenes. The whole text is roughly nine pages long. The script itself is extremely dense and open to interpretation; recurring themes include feminism and the ecology movement. Having been through it, and read the script this morning, I can understand that it could be presented in different ways.
I do have to say though that this is a really gripping production. The site itself – a disused warehouse – is excellent and immediately sets a feeling for the show as we move around this crumbling building reflecting the world outside. The opening scene is both beautiful and shocking at the same time. In fact I was surprised at he reaction I had to the events as they happened.
Director Emily Louizou both asks for and gets a huge amount from her cast.
The actors (Jamie Spindlove, Ava Pickett, Alexandra Sinclair, Susan Hoffman, Maximilian Davey, Jordan Matthews, Chris Szuca and Oliver West) are intense and skillfully manage to move around the audience as if we weren’t there. Although the piece is pretty abstract, there is a believability to the narrative that makes it difficult to separate fact from fiction. Indeed there is one scene where a character does something so natural and, at that point, understandable but which was completely surprising that for a while all of the audience including yours truly were really confused as to whether what we were watching was real or not.
The various scenes make great use of the building and Lighting Designer Daniel English ensures that attention is focussed where it should be. Whilst the sound is very good, a couple of times the music (by David Denyer) did slightly drown out some of the speaking which was a shame as Mark Von Henning’s translation of Heiner Müller’s original script is amazing and often the words flow with the same forceful beauty as did those of old Will himself.
Hamletmachine is quite short at just under an hour but the time really flowed fast. In fact, as we were led outside, I like many of the audience I think, hadn’t realised that the show had ended and was actually left longing for more. A fascinating performance of an adaptation of an amazing play. I would recommend that you pop along and see it as soon as possible then boast to your friends that you really have done something amazing to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
Review by Terry eastham
Heiner Müller’s Hamletmachine is a collage of fragments, an orgy of deconstruction. We invite you to walk through the pieces of a broken civilisation and experience a grotesque wasteland full of beauty and cruelty. The human body stands at its centre – fragile and yet capable of extreme destruction and pain.
We live in a time when Europe is facing all sorts of crises – economic, political, social, humanitarian ones – governments are busy burying these problems rather than facing them with actual solutions, and young people do not know which way to go. For Müller’s Hamlet to be a machine is to be free of cultural and personal memory, to feel no pain, to have no thoughts. With a disturbing energy Müller writes of the “ruins of Europe,” for a revolution that both reduces and elevates humans to machines. Hamletmachine is a harrowing portrait of the aftermath of a war, of life under crisis.
This provocative site-specific production invites you to enter a diseased crumbling world, and to experience the struggle for a new unspoiled one. Hamletmachine is part of Ugly Duck’s latest creative season. Ugly Duck works with artists to create amazing events in unusual, underused spaces.
Director: Emily Louizou
Designers: Alegia Papageorgiou & Greta Landers
Music Composer: David Denyer
Producer: Rachel Horowitz
Marketing: Ines Aparicio
Movement: Hanna Junti & Ioli Filippakopoulou
Lighting Design: Daniel English
Video & Photography: Florence Knoyle
Translator: Marc von Henning
Company: Ava Pickett, Alexandra Sinclair, Susan Hoffman, Jordan Matthews, Jamie Spindlove, Ollie West, Max Davey, Chris Szuca
16th -17th July
3pm, 5pm, 7pm
(Running time: approx. 1 hour)
Facebook: Collide Theatre