Hamlet Machine takes the lead

By Yashen Moodley 

Keeping in touch with the Young Directors Season, drama Masters student Wesley Deintje presented his interpretation of German playwright Heiner Muller’s The HamletMachine. This was Deintje’s last directing exam and in the past he has been responsible for the genius works of Fall of the House of Ussher, 23rd Revelation and Fucking A. The HamletMachine is a postmodernist German drama which is based on William Shakespeare’s famous play: Hamlet. Unlike the original performance, Deintje decided to use two actors to portray the character of Hamlet which made the message of the play stronger. 

  Deintje is influenced by a number of playwrights, including the absurdist playwright Harold Pinter and English born playwrights Edward Bond and Steven Berkoff. His South African influences include Rhodes’ very own Reza de Wet and Andrew Buckland, who Deintje really respects.

Deintje explained his personal relation to the play. “When I read the text, I identified with the character. There is something about him, this trapped body that he finds himself in, that is so caught between what people think he should be and what he wants to be. He is caught between what is expected of him and what is best for him,” he said.      

The play stars second year drama student Chris Fisher and Honours student Matthew Craig Clark, as well as a selection of students from the Drama department.

  Hamlet (Fisher) takes an intrinsic journey in which he is caught between peoples’ expectations and what he feels is best for him. Hamlet has to deal with his own reality with regards to the breakdown of his family, as well as the current social political aspects of what is happening during this era.   

  The director has used The HamletMachine as a universal medium to explore mankind’s history as a whole. The play deals with Hamlet’s role in history while simultaneously discussing the immediate ineffectiveness and necessity of the revolution. The HamletMachine’s ideology portrays a provocative and a somewhat disillusioned standpoint which predicts an apocalypse created by mankind. 

  There are a number of theatrical elements which made the nature of the performance fascinating. These include Hamlet’s removal of his costume to become the actor playing Hamlet. The play helps the audience explore the visual and theatrical possibilities that are involved in evoking Muller’s awkward imagination. The meshing of the boundaries between theatre, performance and visual art create tension between different artist ideologies, and it is in this text that Muller represents the socio-political issue of our time.          

  Deintje explained his goals for the audience. “What I have done on stage is how I envisaged the piece and I tried to construct it in a way that people will come in here and every single person sitting here will see something completely different,” he said. “This piece isn’t supposed to be ‘this is the answer’; there is no answer in this piece. It’s like looking down into a deep abyss, and is there any hope? So this piece is supposed to make people think about it,” said Deintje.

  The HamletMachine takes an insightful look into South Africa’s past and present, representing the social and political standing of the country. Violence, bloodshed, crime and general apathy form a large part of this visual and physical interpretation of Muller’s view of what the global society of mankind has evolved to.   

   The superb physicality of the chorus, merged with their dialogue, set remarkable images, making each scene unique and visually outstanding. With the stylised lighting effects and the genuine chemistry between Fisher and Clark, a mind blowing theatrical atmosphere is created. The energy of the cast as a whole constructs and develops a powerful climax which depicts a world reflected in our own lives. This performance is bold, shocking, physical, sexual and visually dramatic. Deintje has done Muller’s text justice in terms of relating it to a South African social context. Violent and disturbing, with elements of fantasy and visual art, Deintje has managed to create a piece of art that is not only visually intriguing  but also thought provoking.  

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