Slovenian almost historical realization of Heiner Muller's text directed by Ivica Buljan. Great Borštnik's award winning performance 2009.
Macbeth after party
Among the Müllerian variations of Shakespeare's texts there is one really special – Macbeth – which gives evidence of the brutal art of translation-adaptation and remains registered in the annals of the East Germany theatre reviews. In the beginning of the seventies, soon after this text had been written it stirred up most turbulent polemics. In the magazine Sinn und Form, the philosopher Wolfgang Harich attacked Müller for the pessimism he used to transform this Shakespeare's tragedy linking it to the wave of violence and pornography that satiated the art in West Germany of that period. Martin Linzer and Friedrich Dieckmann wrote to defend Müller; in their opinion the issue was not about an adaptation or a translation yet about an original text. Müller's Macbeth has been wilfully bereaved of its optimistic perspective and every teleological dimension. In his commentary from 1972, Müller himself gave an explanation: from the very first scene (where the witches appear) he felt the need for a modification of the text; he wanted to suppress the metaphysical substrate and especially the idea of »predestination«. His text does not start with the witches; the supernatural forces play no more an important role. The history of violence has no end; blood leads to new murders and each circle becomes even more horrible. Heiner Müller has condensed the work; crimes follow one another creating a hell circle with increasing speed. The monologues are radically shortened; there are no more moments of reflection and scruples put in words. Shakespeare’s Macbeth decides to kill Macduff’s family to hush down the rumours; and his Müllerian relative has already got used to acts of killing. The playwright shows no hesitation in making his heroes even darker. He presents no one in a positive light. In the instructions at the beginning of the third scene, even the good Shakespeare’s King Duncan is sitting on a heap of corpses arranged in the shape of a throne. Macbeth is a bloody tyrant merely continuing the work of some other, precedent bloody tyrant.
This theatre of cruelty is amplified by the subversion of seriousness and the »decomposition of heroes«. Müller gives Macbeth a sociological dimension; he draws attention to peasants and soldiers set as opposite to the aristocratic elite. Numerous stage instructions reflect the suffering that people have to endure under the pressure of the nobility. The piece offers no utopian belief in a revolution that might change the world. In the ninth scene, Macduff nails the doorman to the door with a stroke of a sword for having not opened the door soon enough; later he cuts the tongue to a servant because he chooses not to like his answer. The language of »the great« knows no nobility. In the first scene, Müller changes Duncan's grandiose formulation about Macbeth – overfilled with honour titles – into a simple »good Macbeth«. The heroes have no psychological depth; they are turned into ridiculous and have become marionettes of the bloody Grand Guignole. They are victims of the power which they enjoy and which has turned them into stone. When Müller staged Macbeth with Ginko Čolakov at the Volksbühne in 1982, he insisted in preserving the comical and trivial parts which allow the possibility of keeping the distance with the horrors of an absolute power: »There is something liberating in the triviality. We are not exposed to the actual horror but rather directed into thinking about it. My intention is to achieve that goal.«
On basis of Shakespeare's groundwork the East-German playwright ponders about violence in history presenting it as an unceasing catastrophe. In his essay Shakespeare, Difference from 1982, he accentuates the return of the mythic. Also in Macbeth he combines different times confronting the play with the 11th century Scotland, or the modern vocabulary, which he never wanted to evade in his drama. After Jan Kott –in East Germany he was published in 1965 and had great influence on Müller – Shakespeare's characters seem to be mushrooms absorbing our time at this very moment.
It is possible to read Macbeth also as a satire of the present time, although the author himself rejects such analogies. So, he reproached the director Hans Hollmann who directed the piece in 1974 for depending too much on actual events and fashion – especially for interlacing the story about the killings of communists in Iran, or the story about the American war in Vietnam – yet without shaping aesthetic solutions on how to present violence. Nevertheless, the reviews highlighted the parallel between the special constellation of his translation: the opposition between the elite in power and the sea of peasants having no rights at all. The situation in the Soviet Union after the outburst of the Revolution became an obsessive topic for Müller in the period Macbeth was being created. It was the period after Mauser and Cement – both pieces dealing with research on the formation of the USSR. Macbeth actually represents a sample piece, a prototype serving as an example for the plays he wrote later. The author does not write about Stalin or about the United States; he gives no points to this or that political system, but he rather brings light upon the structure: he is puts into force some kind of an archaeological research on an absolute power and its logical analysis.
At first sight, Macbeth does not belong to the same opus asHamlet Machine or Medea Material, it represents however a brilliant example of a Müllerian reading between the lines.
Born 09.01.1929 in Eppendorf (Saxony)
Secondary School; "State Labour Service" // 1945 High-School graduation // district administration employee in Waren / Mecklenburg // library employee // journalistic engagements
1954-55 research assistant at the Writers’ Association // "Junge Kunst” art magazine editor
1957 author and dramaturge
1958-59 employed at the Maxim Gorki Theatre in Berlin
1959 winner of the Heinrich Mann Prize (together with Inge Mueller)
1961 after the first presentation of his work “Die Umsiedlerin” the play was banned and the author was ejected from the Writers’ Association from
1970 dramaturge at the Berliner Ensemble
1976 switches from the Berliner Ensemble to the “Volksbühne”, Berlin
1979 winner of the Mülheimer Drama Prize for “Germania Tod in Berlin” (production of the Münchner Kammerspiele) from
1983 member of the Akademie der Künste in the GDR
1985 winner of the Georg-Büchner Prize
1990 winner of the Kleist Prize //1991 winner of the European Theatre Prize
1990-1993 last president of the Akademie der Künste
1992 directing member of the Berliner Ensembles
1995 sole artistic director
Died 30.12.1995 in Berlin