Hamlet II: exit ghost

9, 10, 11, 12/05 – 20:30
1h 10min

When Jörgen Dahlqvist set up Teatr Weimar in 2003, he put Malmö firmly on Sweden’s theatrical map. For Hamlet II: exit ghost, the director turns a theatre stage into a TV studio, a laboratory in which the actors take apart Shakespeare’s words and characters. Dahlqvist is staging a play within a play. The confusion he maintains between the roles of Hamlet and Polonius and Ophelia and Gertrude exacerbates the madness, doubt and despair overwhelming them. The two actors battle with the play, masterfully navigating between its narrative line and a psychoanalytical interpretation of its mythical protagonists. These are made dramatically familiar thanks to the claustrophobic set and images filmed live. A meditation on identity, the weight of the past and death, Hamlet II: exit ghost is evocative of Scandinavian film and television series as much as the legendary productions of this classic among classics. Shakespeare meets Bergman meets The Killing!

“This is a show that is impressive, both in its approach and its implementation. The fusion of form, content and theme is virtually spotless and results in a work that is both fascinating and thought-provoking.”

Concept & direction
Jörgen Dahlqvist

Composer & live electronics
Kent Olofsson

Light design
Johan Bergman

Live video editing
Jörgen Dahlqvist

Lighting technician
Mira Svanberg

Nils Dernevik, Johan Nordström

Johan Nordström

Rafael Pettersson, Linda Ritzén

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Théâtre 140

Teatr Weimar (Malmö)

Ensemble Ars Nova (Malmö), Inter Arts Center (Malmö), Malmö Theatre Academy

Funded by

Malmö Stad, Statens Kulturrad

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Hamlet II: exit ghost

The stage has become a rehearsal hall. Or vice versa. Cameras, mixing panels, flight cases on wheels, tripods with spots... To the side, a long table, like a wooden pier, from where both actors jump into the empty space, and where they come swimming back to, as to a safe harbour. The rehearsal room is a sea. A sea of possibilities. A training ground in identities. Who is who? Who confronts whom? Nobody seems like himself.

Tonight the two actors are rehearsing Hamlet. How do you play doubt? How do you play strategy? How do you play lethargy? Rafael Pettersson and Linda Ritzén play actors who play Hamlet and Ophelia who play Claudius and Gertrude. Who is who shall remain open at all times. Behold human nature: nobody coincides with himself.

“You are yourself, but you also have another self within you”, says Ophelia to Hamlet. That other self is the actor behind Hamlet as well as his murdered father, as well as the Hamlet that everyone projects upon him. Hamlet is his crisis of being, is his insecurity as an actor – however sure he sounds. He does not only know not who he is, but he also knows not what he has to do. “I cannot do it. It’s that empty hole in myself.” Improvisation is life, is the fate of everyone.

Theatre of self-consciousness

In 1963, in Metatheatre, his classic study on the tradition of theatre about theatre, Lionel Abel wrote that Hamlet’s was the first ‘meta theatrical’ character in the history of theatre. Unlike the tragic Greek characters, Sophocles and Euripides, “he shows he is conscious of the role he plays in the drama taking place around him.” The writer has not made Hamlet into theatre, that Hamlet had already done himself. He acts. He plays himself. That also makes of him an other. A ghost.

That may sound like pure postmodernism, but that is not at all how director Jörgen Dahlqvist summarizes his work. “When in 2003 we founded Teatr Weimar in Malmö, we wanted the name to refer to the central European tradition that builds on both Goethe and the Bauhaus: on the classic and on modernism, rather than on postmodernism. The missing vowel in Teatr again suggests that we are not making finished theatre. It is constantly in transformation, in progress.”

Blank like a sheet of paper

Continuous change is also what distinguishes the two characters in Hamlet II: exit ghost. By isolating them from the dramatic development of Shakespeare, and even throwing their identity into confusion, Dahlqvist opens a wide field of associations. You can view the performance as a simple love conflict, as psychoanalytic therapy, as a reflection on acting, as a contemporary Kaspar Hauser, and even as the existential portrait of a potential killer. Each perspective changes the characters on stage again. They are multi-interpretable. “Blank as a sheet of paper”, they say themselves.

Kent Olofsson, sound composer on the set, is the one who describes and interprets them. He plucks their words from the air, and gives them different timbres, a new articulation. Language becomes syrup, like ghosts in a dense fog. Once in a while, Olofsson literally twists the words, as when Hamlet appeals to his mother. The scene becomes an echo chamber, the resonant space of two souls who have delved deeply into themselves.

Their echoes not only play on your feelings, they also harmonize with the repetitive replies that Hamlet and Ophelia each voice. Every statement, every approach, every promise renews itself, impinges upon the other and vanishes. It is a repetition such as in a maze. Everything seems to double itself, and to appear different yet again. Nothing is certain.

Playing with projections

For Teatr Weimar, Hamlet II: exit ghost is the final part of a broader trilogy on language and identity. In the first part, Elektra revisited, Dahlqvist edited the classic substance of Elektra into a presentation on violence, flirting with contemporary tragedies such as Columbine. Part two, Stairway to Heaven av Led Zeppelin av Jörgen Dahlqvist (Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin by Jörgen Dahlqvist), gave form to the acting per se; the relationship between the duo on stage shaped the actual performance, in the vague territory between fiction and reality. Even though in both parts, Rafael Pettersson and Linda Ritzén took the honours truthfully.

“The trilogy is a research into the possibilities of a stage play”, according to Dahlqvist. “But in Hamlet II: exit ghost, there are also other traces of our collaborative oeuvre. We have always enjoyed working with theatre classics. Lately there has also been an increase into research on form; for example, in the use of video on stage.”

Hamlet II: exit ghost plays against a large projection screen, in which not only live close-ups of both actors appear and flow through one another, but also excursions are made from recorded images of Ophelia on the water, or Hamlet in the graveyard. They are not simple illustrations, but almost psychedelic evocations of a condition of being. “I don’t wish to use video narratively”, confirms Dahlqvist. “Rather, as an additional actor.”

Malmö breaks with tradition

It makes of Teatr Weimar a four-headed makers’ collective that in barely ten years has delivered no less than fifty productions, a noted player in Swedish theatre. That field is still strongly embedded in the social-realist tradition, which Strindberg and the Norwegian, Ibsen, put on the world map in the late nineteenth century. Lars Norén and Ingmar Bergman have in recent decades certainly deepened that tradition with a dark psychological edge, but pieces with a plot and manageable characters remain the norm in Sweden for contemporary authors.

In contrast, Malmö, where Teatr Weimar produces its works, has been very much in motion over the last three years, says Dahlqvist. “As opposed to the fairly traditional realist theatre in Stockholm and Göteborg, here you feel more experimentation, more of a strive towards a new, contemporary performing arts. Teatr Weimar proceeds in that spirit, but at the theatre school in Malmö, a lot is also happening. Teachers are focusing on other things.”

What is experienced in Hamlet II: exit ghost is just that game with another presence on stage, within a multidisciplinary environment. Neither of the two actors plays a role, they are their role. During the performance, they do not change shape, but name. It is the essence of playing theatre. The essence of Shakespeare too.

- Please, Hamlet.

- No, that is not I.

- Please.

- That is not my name.

- Who are you?

- I am who I am, who is inside me.

- Who is that?

- This one here. I do not know. I will find out.

- You are whom I love.

- What?

- You are the one I love, Hamlet.

- Gertrude?

- No, it’s me, Ophelia.

- Ophelia, is that you?

- Yes, it’s me.

- Leave me be, Ophelia.

- That I cannot do.

- You will only get hurt. I will hurt you. He will hurt you, me.

- You would never do that.

- You know me not.

Wouter Hillaert

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Teatr Weimar is Sweden’s leading performing arts collective and is based in Malmö in southern Sweden. Teatr Weimar consists of playwrights, dramaturges, researchers, directors, actors, technicians, musicians and set designers who explore the boundaries and expressions of contemporary performing art. They often work with artists from other disciplines, always with language, power and identity as subjects in their artistic work. Teatr Weimar is at the forefront of artistic research and development in theatre in Sweden and has links with the Malmö Theatre Academy and Inter Arts Centre at Lund University.

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