State of the Art

UNC Charlotte tears ‘Hamlet’ to bits and gets...

Tom Burch designed the spooky set for UNC Charlotte’s “Hamletmachine.”
Tom Burch designed the spooky set for UNC Charlotte’s “Hamletmachine.” Danny Tulledge

I have seen a female Hamlet, a mimed Hamlet, an uncut “Hamlet” and versions of “Hamlet” trimmed to suit the short attention spans of audiences or the vanity of actors. Laurence Olivier dropped great chunks from the text – not the ones he spoke, of course – for his 1948 film.

But I have never seen a “Hamlet” that was slashed to one-fifth of its length and presented with pieces out of order – the infamous “Hamletmachine,” which is getting a local premiere next week from UNC Charlotte’s theater department.

For the last six years, UNCC has paid a long-running tribute to the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death (that’ll be April 23, 2016) by performing his plays or presenting symposia, lectures and events related to them. That effort has intensified over the year leading up to the present, and no element has involved as radical a re-imagining as this.

German playwright Heiner Müller wrote “Hamletmachine” in 1977 after translating all of Shakespeare’s tragedy. The play doesn’t have a traditional plot. Instead, it presents a series of monologues that, in the author’s words, dispel “the illusion that one can stay innocent in this, our world.”

Muller was reacting both to the division of Germany into two countries after World War II and the failure of Communism to bring happiness to East Germany. He lived to see reunification, dying in Berlin six years after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

Robin Witt, a respected director in Chicago and an assistant professor at UNCC, will direct a cast of 27 student actors in the five-act play – which lasts less than an hour. The show will run March 18-22 in Anne R. Belk Theater of Robinson Hall. For $15, you can be befuddled, enlightened or exposed to the Bard’s greatness in a whole different way. Details: