Heiner Müller (1929-1995) said in 1972: “The rulers never notice what they stand for.” The quote comes from the Brandenburg theater season in which the premiere of his Shakespeare reduction “Macbeth” took place. And unlike the mild British theater god, Müller leaves no trace of remorse in the king-slayer/murderer-king Macbeth. He merely perpetuates slaughter as a principle of a society that carries its invocations of humanity before it like a monstrance. So then Müller’s stage direction is: “Duncan, sitting on corpses that are layered to form a throne.” Stephan Suschke, director of drama at the Landestheater (once Müller’s assistant), begins his production at the Linz Kammerspiele with this picture. The captivating premiere, which deliberately danced around the text, took place on Saturday.
Free from pangs of conscience
The witches prophesying bloodbaths, which Shakespeare installed for King James I because of his fondness for magical gestures, are reduced by Müller to anarchic horror children. Macbeth’s king-predecessor Duncan (Lutz Zeidler) sits with Malcolm (Christian Taubenheim) on what appears to be a hilltop collection of old clothes (stage: Momme Röhrbein), which turns out to be a mountain of corpses. These two negotiate no pangs of conscience either, but cheer for the battlefield successes of Macbeth and Banquo (Alexander Julian Meile). The fact that Duncan, for his part, is slaughtered by his own butcher Macbeth is merely the consequence of a cycle of power that has grown calloused against any form of empathy.
In Müller’s universe, which was battered by Stalinism in the GDR, Macbeth can’t help but muddle on “in the bloody course of history”. Alexander Hetterle presents the psychology of Macbeth, who was only hesitant about the first murder, on the dark stage in a clear text and believable every second.
Theresa Palfi is brilliant as his lady-wife: Her character has no scruples, she demonically invokes her husband to let the blades circle until she is assassinated herself, which Macbeth doesn’t affect too much.
From the aristocratic revolt, Müller concocts a peasant uprising, evil is not the foundation of polite society. It stares out of all groups.
The bravura Klaus Müller-Beck and Helmuth Häusler as Lenox and Rosse are congenially devious henchmen of the Blood Prince, whose loyalty is only for their own benefit. The drama studio student Nils Thomas slams a grandiosely insane Macbeth adversary Macduff among the professional colleagues and recommends himself as an ensemble reinforcement. His fellow student Kaspar Simonischek has room for improvement linguistically, but is perfect for Macbeth’s last ally Seyton and the porter. However, Suschke makes a slight directorial error: First, the right porter’s leg is splinted, but when Macduff and Lenox severed this body part with the chainsaw, a left splinted leg bleeds on stage.
Angela Waidmann balances Lady Macduff, lady-in-waiting and rape victim dazzlingly over the ramp. In the end, the nature of cruelty also rises above Macbeth and devours him like many before him – and even more so after him. In the shadow of Putin’s lust for murder in Ukraine, Müller’s “Macbeth” is the play of the hour.
Conclusion: Two and a half hours of concentrated drama with brilliantly crafted text. The direction rightly relies on the power of the ensemble.
- “Macbeth”Tragedy by H. Müller after Shakespeare, Linzer Kammerspiele, Premiere: 28. 5., Director: Stephan Suschke, Term bis 5. 7.