Christian Weise’s Hamlet breathes fresh life into an overdone tragedy. It’s a stylistically ambitious, playfully postdramatic and intellectually interesting approach to Shakespeare’s most-performed play – making it a must-see production. Horatio, an artistically frustrated student from New York, is directing an avantgarde Hamlet film in which he hopes to make some profound statement about Germany. What exactly, even he’s not quite sure. That Hamlet is haunted by what appears to be the spectre of Karl Marx – played by Gorki veteran Ruth Reinecke in her last premiere performance – is just one ironic, cul-de-sac attempt at enriching this meta-narrative. It’s associative, not definitive, and that plays to the piece’s strength. Another attempt is certainly the wall: a literal barrier that separates the action and audience, as scenes are filmed on a painted film set full of distorted perspectives and projected back onto the stage façade in an IMAX-esque experience. Of course this wall is broken several times, itself a metatheatrical and historically symbolic act. Particular highlights are Aram Tafreshian’s stonecold, intense performance as Claudius and Svenja Liesau’s Hamlet, who replaces Shakespearean soliloquies with Gorki-standard out-of-character rants, here caricatured in an exaggerated Berliner dialect with icks and juts aplenty. Jens Dohle delivers a masterful soundtrack that flips from eerie xylophone scores to epic emo-chords on command whenever Liesau yells “genre change!” Overall, Weise delivers a refreshing, self-reflexive piece that is both surprisingly faithful and daringly innovative. There certainly is method to his meta-madness.
Hamlet | Directed by Christian Weise. Maxim Gorki Theater, Mitte. March 3 & 4, with English surtitles.