Milan Štefe

Ivica Buljan

Marko Mandić, Milena Zupančič, Miha Rodman, Jurij Drevenšek/Aljaž Jovanović, Jure Henigman, Jose, Stipe Kostanić, Domen Valič/Jernej Gašperin, Anže Zevnik

Diana Koloini

Mitja Vrhovnik Smrekar

Tanja Zgonc

Costume design:
Ana Savić Gecan

Set design:

Language consultant:
Mateja Dermelj

Robert Waltl

Co - production:
Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana, Slovenia and Novo kazalište Zagreb and ZeKaeM (Zagrebačko kazalište mladih), Zagreb, Croatia

Opening performance:
January 2009

Slovenian almost historical realization of Heiner Muller's text directed by Ivica Buljan. Great Borštnik's award winning performance 2009.

Ivica Buljan

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.

From the critiques

“What’s most fascinating about this staging (and, I have to say, because it was in Slovenian, I have no idea of the extent to which Müller “adapted” Shakespeare’s actual lines) is the way in which, just as Müller de-Shakespeared Shakespeare, Buljan re-Shakespeares Müller. Or at least, the text is played the least like any staging of Heiner Müller I have ever seen, and at the same time makes a pretty recognisable Macbeth. Of course, part of this comes from the fact that the text is no longer in German. Even when translated into English, Müller’s poetry retains a certain chilly rigidity. Rendered into Slovenian, it gains a violence and heat that I’ve never heard in his work before. As with Damned Be The Traitor of His Homeland (also Slovenians directed by a Croatian, interestingly) you notice the capacity for the Slovenian language to sustain violent outbursts, or prolonged shouting, in ways that English (or Portuguese, I’d say) simply doesn’t. Added to this is – again, particularly noticeable in the wake of Damned... – the enviable physicality of the performers.” Postcard from the Gods, Andrew Haydon, critic of The Guardian

“Buljan's  aestetuics with the predominantly local cast really takes off … The piece is played in-the-round, a format which I pretty much detest. Here, “the round” is made up of white plastic beach/garden chairs, forming a relatively small square stage in the middle of Incrível de Almadense’s much larger auditorium (one which, ordinarily, would be dominated by the large pros. arch stage that I’ve got my back to). The two tiers of balconies and the stage are all made use of, raced round, stamped on, climbed up and sung from, but the real meat of the relentless, kinetic action takes place on the floor right in front of us – “off-stage” for the cast are several front row chairs with “reserved” signs sellotaped to them; they even do their costume changes sat there. And I loved it.” Postcard from the Gods, Andrew Haydon, critic of The Guardian

 “With modest production elements and a talented cast, Buljan has created a lean, brutal interpretation of Müller’s play. The simple set, powerful, saturated lights, and spare but evocative costume design create a visceral experience of the disposability and devaluation of human life. Emblematic of this savvy design is the monarch’s crown, constructed on the body of each actor out of brown packaging tape. This choice sharply mocks the institution of the monarchy and the power that goes with it. At its root, the crown and the king are just as disposable and easily consumed as the feast that the cast and audience devour and scatter across the stage at Macbeth’s coronation.” Breaking down the bard (Slavic and European Performance, Vol. 32, no. 1; Spring 2012/Winter 2013)

“Macbeth relies on the male energy of young actors supported with experience of two actresses. It unleashes them into the gladiator arena where a fight for life or death is taking place.’’the jury of the 44th Maribor Theatre Festival

‘’Soldiers bravely enter the scene while ecstatically and with great skill stay in character. Their scenes of lust don’t appear sacrilegious but deeply aesthetically united. So much so the illusion of reality vanishes. The minimalistic costumes designed by Ana Savić Gecan and thrilling music by Mitja Vrhovnik Smrekar leave an even more powerful mark on the audience.’’  Nenad Obradović,


The Grand Prix for the Best Performance of the Maribor Theatre Festival, 44th Maribor Theatre Festival, Maribor, Slovenia; 2011

Borštnik Award for acting to Marko Mandić for the role of Macbeth, 44th Maribor Theatre Festival, Maribor, Slovenia; 2011

Borštnik Award for Young Actor to Jure Henigman, 44th Maribor Theatre Festival, Maribor, Slovenia; 2011

Premio Villanueva de la crítica cubana Award from Cuban critics and writers for best foreign performance shown in Cuba in 2009, Havana, Cuba; 2009

Festivals and tours

44th Maribor Theatre Festival, Maribor, Slovenia; 2009

International Theatre Festival Havana, Cuba; 2009

ZeKaeM Zagreb, Croatia; 2009

Theatre Olympics in Seoul, South Korea; 2011

La MaMa Theatre, New York, USA; 2011

CZKD Beograd, Serbia; 2012

31st Almada Festival, Portugal; 2014

Heiner Mueller

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