Eric Colleary

Die Hamletmaschine

Twisted Roots' "Die Hamletmaschine"
Twisted Roots' "Die Hamletmaschine"

Angela Olson in <i>Die Hamletmaschine</i>. Photo by Guy Bock

Twisted Roots' "Die Hamletmaschine"
Twisted Roots' "Die Hamletmaschine"

Angela Olson, Xanthia Walker and Laura Purcell Gates in Twisted Roots' <i>Die Hamletmaschine</i>. Photo by Guy Bock

Putrifaction - Twisted Roots' "Die Hamletmaschine"
Putrifaction - Twisted Roots' "Die Hamletmaschine"

The ensemble of <i>Die Hamletmaschine</i>. Photo by Guy Bock

Die Hamletmaschine | Media List


Production co-directed with Malin Palani.

Twisted Roots' remounting of Heiner M�ller's classic for the Minnesota Fringe Festival August 2-10, 2007 at the home of Tony award-winning Theatre de la Jeune Lune. Die Hamletmaschine performed in front of packed houses in Minneapolis in 2006.

Heiner M�ller, Germany's great post-modern playwright, reacts to the political collapse of post-WWII Eastern Europe in this retelling of Shakespeare's Hamlet. The political collapse echoed for him in the psychological collapse of Prince Hamlet as he struggles to cope with the murder of his father and wedding of his mother to the apparent murderer, now king of Denmark. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, as Hamlet says, and M�ller offers a graphic image of a world rotting from the inside out, ecology mimicking the political state, in a downward spiral to the next Ice Age.


Star Tribune
Shakespeare�s �Hamlet� is the springboard for German playwright Heiner Muller�s harshly expressionistic and deliberately disjointed �Die Hamletmaschine.� That harshness, fully evident in Twisted Roots� gripping ensemble production, is enhanced cryptically with black costumes, sharply stylized stage movement, and eerie sound effects that sometimes overwhelm what�s spoken. Bold ritualistic imagery of male domination of women, nudity that underscores human vulnerability in the face of raw cruelty, and demonic confidence in the acting makes this �Hamletmaschine� an unsettling theatrical experience. (John Townsend)

Pioneer Press
Heiner M�ller's riff on "Hamlet" is fewer than 10 pages long, but some productions have stretched to eight hours. Twisted Roots' which strives for "ensemble-driven physical theatre that seeks to disturb the human condition" fulfills its mission with this 45-minute production. It begins with an aural assault of high-decibel industrial noise and ends with three women rolled in sheets and trussed with duct tape. Knowing the source material may or may not help you make heads or tails of this dense, inscrutable yarn. If the performers get what it's all about, they do a good job of not letting on. - Dominic P. Papatola

Talkin� Broadway
Twisted Roots' ensemble production of Heiner Mueller's most famous play, a sort of vivisection of Shakespeare's Hamlet feels like a face-smash of broken glass. It opens to the overwhelming sound of grinding industrial machinery, or is it tanks, crushing what it means to be human. I sat in appalled fascination at systematic rape of women, Hamlet's rape of his mother, the routine cruelty of unchecked tyranny and the anger, numbness and despair of those at the receiving end of unfettered power, finely expressed by three different Ophelias. Might claims right in this play's unabashed violence towards women. Die Hamletmaschine dehumanizes both the perpetrators and the victims and feels wrenchingly relevant in light of Darfur and Iraq. Twisted Root's six players use compelling physicality and images to plumb Mueller's brutal text, but you need strong guts to watch it. **** (Theatre de la Jeune Lune, Fri. Aug. 10 at 7:00 p.m.)

Gunthar, Official Fringe Photographer
Definitely not everyone's cup of tea. Heavy with obscure symbolism and non-linear in outline, this is a fairly abstract play that explores the emotions of self-loathing, destructive relationships, abandonment, death, cannibalism, madness and violence. I was utterly fascinated, but Ginger was completely repelled. Lots of great imagery. I plan to go back a second time with better camera equipment and a foreknowledge of the critical climatic moments. I cannot give a higher compliment to a Fringe show than that--I will intentionally miss shows I haven't seen and will probably never get to see, in order to see this show a second time.

Phillip Low, Official Fringe Blogger:;=2653
Ran into another performer at the nightcap, who spoke dismissively of this show as "pretentious." My response? Of *course* it's pretentious. That doesn't mean that it isn't also ridiculously good.
I recognize that there's a lot here that's going to turn people off -- a crew of actors, dressed all in black, careening randomly from line to line with seemingly nothing tying them together -- there's a lot to hate. But at the same time, I recognize that when an air-raid siren goes off, and I see those dark, twisted figures begin to shuffle stiffly across the stage, all the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end, because I've experienced something very much like this in my nightmares.
Fuck the review. Worth stopping for a minute here to think about why it works *here*, and why it comes off as just embarrassingly affected in so many other performances. Two things, I think:
1) Structure. The layout of this show only *appears* random -- there are scenes, and characters, and relationships that develop within those scenes, and transitions between them. They seem to have a very clear understanding of the idea that chaos needs something play *against* in order to be interesting.
2) Acting -- the total emotional investment on the part of the performers. When you hear a strain of music that moves you, you don't stop to ask "But what did that chord *mean*?" because you know perfectly well that it didn't mean anything. Acting is similar here -- they all commit fully to heightened emotional states in a way that produces an emotional response in *me*.
Not for everyone, but very highly recommended by me.

Audience Reviews;=true#reviews

"I was completely sucked in!" by Sir Anthony:
This was the most intense theater experience I've ever had! From the moment you walk into the theater, even before the play starts, the mood is set and you can't help but wonder, what will come next. I won't even pretend that I comprehended everything that I saw or heard, but it really didn't matter. The intensity of the actors, combined with just the right lighting and music, kept me completely engaged! At one point in the show, some "late-comers" strolled in and acted like they were completely unaware, that there was a performance happening. I was quite irritated, until I noticed the actress on stage, very cleverly, using this to her advantage and incorporating their rudeness into her performance.(Nice!) My only regret is that I didn't see this show earlier in the running, because as much as I'd like to, I'll be unable to attend the final performance. So here's to hoping this show makes the Fringe Encore!

"Is culture the history of barbarism?" by Andrew Gricevich:
That's one of the high-flown but crucial questions this impeccable presentation of Muller's classic work raises. To call it a classic is a bit odd, since Muller is one of those playwrights who, though he's never been fully absorbed into the theatrical world, influences a lot of contemporary work without its practitioners even knowing it. The play violently rejects all established solutions to millenia of brutal oppression while demanding that oppression be done away with anyway, while recognizing that things have come to a stuck point from which any escape is unlikely to be pretty. Which "Hamletmachine" is certainly not. It's violent, repulsive, scary. Its gender politics are problematic, by which I mean that gender is shown to be a problem (it's not feminist, but it is self-aware). It is acted nearly flawlessly, and the lighting and sound designers deserve medals for providing brilliantly-conceived additional layers to the piece that make essential contributions, rather than just functioning as mood-enhancers, subservient and uninteresting padding to cover up staged inadequacies. Thank you, Twisted Roots, for presenting this too-rarely-seen work.

"An Arresting Production of this now-classic Play" by William Beeman:
Die Hamletmachine is perhaps the most famous play of German Playwright Heiner Mueller. The whole play is only a few pages long, and has five acts. This gives the producers, directors and performers enormous latitude. It makes the play a kind of dramatic Rorschach projection for the emotional underlay Mueller detects in Hamlet. A famous production by Robert Wilson lasted nearly 5 hours in 1991. This 40+ minute production is exceptionally creative and arresting. The costuming, stark stage setting, casting and particularly the lighting and complex sound underlay for the production are stunning. One needs to know Hamlet to truly appreciate the work, and the Twisted Roots group projects the emotional impact in an exceptionally effective manner. The young cast is thoroughly focused on their work, and the commitment and honesty of their performance haunts the audience long after the performance is over.

"die Maschine gewinnt wieder" by Julia Winkels:
ich will eine Maschine sein.

"Throughly Disgusting!" by Haley Honeman:
Hamletmaschine is an intense experience confronting the darkest sides of the human condition. I wanted to scream "Stop it!" and vomit all over myself and cry for what felt like a never-ending cycle of pain and misery on a downward spiral to destruction. The acting was some of the best I've seen at the Fringe. Each performer was completely committed to baring their souls (and at times their bodies) for the message of this show. I think everyone should see this show. Sadly, some of us will not be able to look the evil in ourselves in the face and wake up from the blissful sleep of ignorance. Risky, bold, and interesting avant-garde theatre at it's best!

"Stunning performance of classic postmodernist theater" by Wade Haynes:
I saw this performance in its earlier presentation by the University of Minnesota's Xperimental Theater. This latest, more pared-down manifestation is just as effective as the previous. The monologues were well-delivered, the mise en scene well-conceived, and the acting superb. I appreciated the careful attention paid this time to the various technologies of distraction that persistently produce a state of alienation in our hypercapitalized world. I was also pleased to see that the three Ophelias' monologues remained with the subtle touch of three clock ticking out of time, each slowly falling away during delivery until only an eerie silence and darkness remains. A very effective and chilling interpretation of Muller's brutal dramatic prose. Muller's work, written during the earliest throes of communism's collapse resounds all the more loudly in our present state of "no alternative" globalization. Well done.

"Disturbing and pretty and pretty disturbing" by Lindsey D.:
This is not a narrative piece or story in the traditional sense, and if you can let go of that and let yourself be caught up in the experience of it - the sound scape, the anxiety, the poetry - it is very successful and beautifully done. The physicality of the performances is particularly impressive.

"Wow!" by Richard Heise:
The best acted show I've seen in this years Fringe and I've seen 24 so far. This show is not for everyone but it should be. An intense drama with a strong message. My congratulations to the cast on a fine performance

"Hamletmaschine is a stunningly dark show" by Hazen Markoe:
Presented by Twisted Roots, DIE HAMLETMASCHINE is a dark and brooding piece that uses the classic Shakespearean as a springboard to the human condition. A young cast of six actors proceed to writh, wriggle and expound on various aspects of life. It's a daring piece that the cast grasps with both hands using everything from nudity to the enclosure of the 3 females in the cast with shrouds. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but it is well done and might be worth your time.

"Once Upon a Time in Denmark" by Dan O'Neil:
Let's go ahead and get it out of the way- Do your homework and know what to expect upon viewing this production. Know that you will be challenged, and know that there are few if any "comfortable" moments to be found here. The whole ordeal is distinctly uncomfortable, but hauntingly beautiful as well. The Good: A number of brave, occasionally brilliant performances are put forth here. The work is concise, controlled, and thoughtful. The design elements are spectacular, bringing light, sound and setting together seamlessly to create the post- (post post, in this production) WWII Never-Never land the play inhabits. The Not As Good: There is an unequal balance between the movement featured and the delivery of the plays actual text. The movement aspect is quite good, but the text finds itself lost amid all this. There are more than a few moments in which lines are delivered in a "theater of the gods" manner, out and up without connection to either the actor or the audience. This is made all the more clear by the moments in which the text is landed, the meaning of it considered, the conversation and connection made with the audience. Also, and perhaps a more contentious point, but one that I need to explore, as a reaction to the play; the presentation and adaptation both empowers and embattles women- Physically, emotionally, and sexually. There are feminist aspects at play, showing us both these bodies and these desperate cries from the three Ophelias. However, there is also an implicit indictment here. The men in the piece are by and large cruel and without thought. The violence enacted by them serves as a distancing tool, so that by the end I was so far removed from having a connection to these men as to feel somewhat isolated and (arguably) unfairly represented. I understand why- I understand what is at stake- I just don't have to like being shown those deepest and darkest parts of the male aggressor without a glimmer of redemption or recognition of some goodness.

"No False Advertising" by John Figura:
This is Genuine Fringe. There were moments that made me think, moments that made want to shout out "You got that right!", and moments where I sat there and wondered what I had just seen. But this is why I go to the Fringe.

"That just happened." by Jeff Saunders:
If you're into unrelenting darkness, this play is for you! Even completely horrible real life has some ups. A little balance/contrast may have made the dark seem darker. I do appreciate the message though......I think.

"40 minutes long" by Brian Watson-Jones:
There's not much I can say about this show... and I suppose that's the point of this review. The actors are to be commended for the bravery that it took to stage this piece, especially the nudity. And the audio and aggressive starkness of the Jeune Lune stage flowed together to create a great mood. But I left the show not loving it, not hating it, just sort of aware that it had passed in front of me. And this play demands more than that.

"8/3 performance" by Brian O'Neal:
I feel awkward assigning stars on a five point scale for this show, because I don't really think that the piece lends itself to critical examination. That being said, I can speak to the reaction I have to the presentation. The performance I saw contained a single note throughout of despair. It was conveyed in no uncertain terms from the dissonant and clamorous pre-show tableau straight through to the stark and bleak final stage picture. The guess is that this was intentional. What missing for me was an awareness of the possibilities of Muller's script. Yes, historically it is a piece that explores the pit of human suffering - but the lack of any joy at all seems to undercut the point (if a show of this nature can have a point) of despair and hopelessness. I don't think you can earn the bitter without the sweet. That being said, this is a gutsy and visceral show - if you are familiar with the genre or the play itself, there is something here for you. If the idea of a show that offers you only the darkest of humanity is not appealing to you, you may want to see something else. This is meant to be a taxing and challenging experience, and it certainly delivered that. The performances are physically interesting and engaging, while emotionally the single tone of ennui was a hard pill to swallow.

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Die Hamletmaschine