Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Here speaks Elektra, vol.II

Juha as Hamlet as Woman
This is one aggressive bitch
Today's fun and games is the second round of workshops for Here speaks Elektra, an upcoming project at Naamio ja Höyhen with myself, Akseli Aittomäki and Juha Sääski on stage; Davide Giovanzana directing, and also including Virpi Byring, Maura Korhonen, and other designers in the mix; we haven't worked with everyone yet. It's an extension of the work we did for Opheliamachine way back in 2005, which means that it's based on ancient Greek chorus and Heiner Müller's Die Hamletmaschine, and this time we've shrunk the chorus and are looking more at the fifth act of HM; which begins with the line "Hier spricht Elektra." We've been focusing on ideas such as humiliation, torture, domination, and all kinds of stuff that makes you feel good at the end of the day.

Here's probably the most disturbing character I've ever met: Juha as Hamlet (as from die Hamletmaschine) who wants to be a woman. We just did some solo and duo work today with Davide, and my Ophelia/Gertrude had a hell of a time dealing with this bastard. Or rather, the disturbance was as much from O/G's inability to fight back as much as any aggression from Hamlet. Hamlet, in HM, wants to be a woman. An interpretation of this could be that he's systematically trying to rid himself of the parts that cause aggression, fighting, evil, and suffering. He ends up wanting to be a machine, with no pain, no thoughts. So we first had a fantastic dance from Juha here, alternating between war-waging, all-fucking movements and the delicate dance of a tragic lady Blanche. It was great; when he was masculine, I saw a man dressed in a woman's clothes. When he played feminine, I saw a woman dressed in a man's body. The clothes, I'm beginning to think, are a terribly important factor in an actor's (a person's?) psychology.

In Hamletmachine, Hamlet rapes his mother in a particularly brutal bunch of lines in the first act; or rather he talks about it but whether or not he actually does it is a matter of direction. He's little more than the embodiment of an uncontrollable violent urge, which is something I understood better after improvising with him today. And to me, Ophelia and Gertrude don't have physical power. It's just not part of my imagination of them. I've also never played a character who really couldn't just punch anybody's lights out (at least in a play where that kind of situation arises), so after improvising and basically having my character mocked and thrown about and mimed-violated, having no idea in my head at all where my supposed maternal/feminine power was supposed to be coming from and whether or not it could possibly hold any currency whatsoever against a Hamlet in this mood, I felt really distressed.

I've often been one of those actors who makes fun of actors who talk about their feelings a lot, but if you're a performer, you do work with them very closely from time to time and you do need to take your emotional responses seriously. You have to be able to step back and realize that you're not psychotic, depressed, angry, or a sex maniac, but your character is, and there is a difference. Sometimes it's easy to confuse your personality with a fantasy you've created. This is why some actors are (famously, almost cliched in a way) nervous wrecks.

The distress I felt comes not from anything that happened to me in the improvisation, but from some kind of weird empathy; the possibility that that situation could exist. Maybe not even for me, but for some woman (or man) somewhere. All the same, we experience emotions as if that thing has happened to us; we don't have any way of separating character-induced emotions from real life emotions, save the faculty to step back and analyse which one is which. The feeling of absolute powerlessness is very, very bad. It's also a very easy starting point for beautiful expression, because you simply cannot do anything, you have no effect on anyone, and the expression comes so easily because it cannot try to do or be anything other than itself. Loaded with powerlessness, a gesture can be wonderful.

What will be nice in the future is to see how Ophelia/Gertrude will turn this around, how the same powerless character will be able to hold all the cards over psycho-Hamlet. I'm not exactly sure how this is going to work, but I'm sure it should happen. She has something Hamlet will never have, and Hamlet wants that something.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


about the last episode level 3,
parallel universes are identical,
thus the persons are identical.

Kiitos for performance and improvisations!