Prinzessin Hamlet

by E. L. Karhu
I thought that by this point in life
one would know something about life
that it would be relatively clear
who is who
what will happen
and in what order.
That the sun rises in the east and sets in the west,
that ice turns to water before it turns to steam,
that nothing turns into anything else
without some comforting interim stage.
Princess Hamlet cannot and will not confirm this notion of her mother Gertrude’s. On the contrary, she radically refuses all of the standard roles that are determined for her in the systems of family, society and state. The vehemence with which she questions all given structures is a real threat both to her life and the system: She will give her life to make a stand. Princess Hamlet is apparently insane, and so her mother removes her from the kingdom. She is placed at Buckingham Palace, where she joins the palace choir, meets Elton John and is idolized by her fellow patient Ofelio. Horatia, Hamlet’s best friend, tries to save her, but ends up as a pawn of Gertrude, who uses her to maintain the existing social order.

This play by the Finnish theatre author and dramaturg E.L. Karhu takes up the Shakespearean topics of truth, love, betrayal and power, but it is a completely autonomous work nonetheless, a feminist Hamlet-version with echoes of Sarah Kane and Heiner Müller’s “Hamletmaschine”. The motif of self-exhaustion leading to insanity is one of the central issues of the play, as is the topic of the (non-)functioning subject within a logic provided by society, and of those who prefer to turn their own lives into a signal that can be seen from afar. 

E.L. Karhu’s plays often revolve around the ethics of human actions as well as the relationship between individual and society. In her writing, the author explores new dramatic forms and the limits of theatrical idioms. Her latest play, “Princess Hamlet”, experiments with a cartoonish imagery. It was premiered at Q-teatteri in Helsinki in February 2017.

Director Lucia Bihler was born in Munich in 1988. She studied directing at the Hochschule für Schauspielkunst “Ernst Busch” in Berlin. While she was studying, she created projects at bat Studiotheater, Ballhaus Ost Berlin and Maxim Gorki Theater Berlin, based on Kafka, Kleist, Fleißer, Shakespeare and Heiner Müller. Her formally austere productions are distinguished by their powerful imagery and have been presented at Deutsches Theater Göttingen, Schauspielhaus Wien and Theater Lübeck. This is Lucia Bihler’s first work at Schauspiel Leipzig.

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Playwright: E. L. Karhu
Director: Lucia Bihler
Stage & Costume Designer: Josa Marx
Music: Planningtorock
Sonja Laaser
Dramaturgy: Christin Ihle
Light Designer: Jörn Langkabel