October 16, 2014

Hamletmachine Mines Shakespeare to Explore Anarchy, Freedom, and Violence

Hamletmachine, directed by Paul Lampert, is Theatre @ York’s first mounted show of the 2014/15 season. The show is based off of Heiner Müller’s 1977 work Hamletmachine which is a postmodern drama that takes inspiration from William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. Müller’s Hamletmachine is a 9 page script that Paul and the fourth year acting conservatory students are turning into a full length show.

The piece is being created in rehearsal by the fourth year Acting Conservatory. Marcus Bernacci, one of the fourth year Acting Conservatory students, says that, “When we started, it was a gathering of raw materials; we all had written lots of personal pieces.”

This the show is turning into a vibrant theatrical piece that uses the text and characters of Hamlet as a foundation to explore issues arising from institutionalization and how it has affected people for the past few decades.

“We did research on major historical event of the past 50 years, all sorts of journaling about identity and about being an outsider. We interviewed our parents as well. We asked them about what their lives were like and major events in their lifetime, looked at wars, assassination, and drugs. The responses were interesting. And we’re looking at 9/11 as well, because that was a major zeitgeist for everyone in North America.”

Hamletmachine wals being built in the shop.

The show also explores issues that are very personal to members of the conservatory as well. Issues of anarchy, freedom, violence, racism and otherness are just some of the themes being explored in the piece. As Marcus explains, “since it’s so autobiographical, I want to say that the actor is in their as well. And there are moments when we’re not saying the script and we’re, I don’t want to say breaking the fourth wall, but we’re breaking the world of the play.”

Hayley Pace is a fourth year devised theatre student who is the set designer for Hamletmachine. When designing her she had this idea of meta-theatre in mind. The set she developed is a classroom entrapped by three walls inside the Jospeh Green Theatre, a box inside of a box. “What really spoke the most was school and being in an institutional setting” states Hayley. “This is the first time we’re [us fourth years] leaving the institution. How you come back home and your parents are questioning where all these Idea are coming from, ‘I didn’t raise you that way, how come you’re so out spoken now?’ Because I’ve been on my own now and it’s now about what I want, and not what you want, and those are the issues present in Hamletmachine”

For her the process began several weeks before the first rehearsal. “I was designing for a piece that would be devised, so I had to make a space that could be worked on and devised on… Paul and I talked about the book I Am Hamlet, by Richard James, which talks about the character of Hamlet, the actor playing Hamlet and the director directing Hamlet. It really got me to look at Shakespeare in a different way, and also Harrold and The Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson and the use of chalk, it’s a big thing in DT [Devised Theatre]”

Creating the piece has been, and continues to be a real journey for both Hayley and Marcus. For Hayley she says, “I’ve never seen something this big come from my head…12 foot walls are more daunting in real life. The fact that I saw an 8 foot door that could open, I was scared, it looks like a box but all these things open, that’s scary.”

Marcus states that for himself working on Hamletmachine continues to be an exciting experience, “Paul’s putting up a skeleton and were trying to find ways to fill it up, so we have some veins in their but were still like a fetus. It’s always growing and changing, and growing bigger”.

Hamletmachine’s first preview is on November 9th and the show closes on November 15th, 2014 in the Joseph G Green Studio Theatre in York University’s Center for Film and Theatre.  Tickets may be purchased online at http://finearts.yorku.ca/perform/boxoffice or in person at the Box Office.