Wednesday, 1 November 2000

Maquina Hamlet, Nov 1, 2000

by Heiner Muller El Periferico de Objetos
at Playhouse until November 4, 2000
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

El Periferico de Objetos is an unsubsidised theatre company from Buenes Aires which has a substantial reputation in Europe and the Americas.

The combination of this visual theatre company (directors: Daniel Veronese, Emilio Garcia Wehbi and Ana Alvarado) with German playwright Heiner Muller's 1979 abstract script, The Hamletmachine,  is startling and disturbing.

Muller might not recognise his play but he might be delighted with this company's extrapolation on its ideas. Maquina Hamlet  is visually compelling and resonates with oppressed cultures worldwide.

The Hamlet story is merely a vehicle for observations about totalitarianism, death, obsession, revenge, repression, suicide and incarceration.

The bleakness of the world of dictatorships from which this play comes, namely East Germany and Argentina, is present in the production. It is grim and relentless in its condemnation of man's inhumanity to man and woman. Violence is like a machine that reproduces abuse century after century.

The piece is divided into five sections. Each title and all the text translated into English is projected onto the rear wall of the Playhouse while a voice over in Spanish recites the script.

At times the lighting (Jorge Doliszniak) is grim and confined. At others, the entire stage is lit starkly in the "alienation" style of Brecht and Heiner Muller's Berliner Ensemble.

Images are often grotesque and distressing. The opening scene, A family Album, is like a banquet table at which are seated life-size mannequins and actors (Felicitas Luna, Emilio Garcia Wehbi, Jorge Onofri, Alejandro Tantanian -all) with little dolls representing Hamlet's family and playing out their gruesome tragedy.

Part Two, The Europe of Women, sees Ophelia dressed as hooker, caged and tortured by rat-men. Part three, Scherzo is a night club setting with mannequins at tables, actors dancing with and abusing women on wheels and a chanteuse singing.

Part Four contains disturbing photographic projections of massacre, war, revolution and abuse and a mannequin used as a dart board. In the final scene, a life size doll is torn limb from limb by his torturers.

 Although I was strangely unmoved emotionally by this piece, it is theatrically challenging and takes the Hamlet narrative and Muller's script to new and interesting locations.

By Kate Herbert

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