In September 1991, I went to the Deutsches Theater in Berlin to see Heiner Müller's production of Hamlet. This production was memorable in numerous ways. Here are a few:
1. The play within the play was Müller's own Hamletmaschine instead of The Murder of Gonzago.
2. Claudius was played by the wondrous Jörg Gudzuhn, whom I had seen a few weeks earlier in Kleist's Der zerbrochene Krug. A truly splendid actor.
3. There were three intermissions: the first and third were twenty minutes long; the second was an hour long, with barbecue.
4. It was after the long intermission that the production turned to Hamletmaschine.
5. The duel between Hamlet and Laertes was staged with tennis rackets. The actors were dressed accordingly, and they moved in mock slow motion, as if they were playing tennis.
5. Hamlet himself was played by the fabulous Ulrich Mühe, whose work I had the pleasure of seeing on film several times in the following weeks, especially in Bernhard Wicki's utterly overwhelming Das Spinnennetz, a three-hour-plus film of the greatest intensity, based on a Joseph Roth novella and also starring Armin Mueller-Stahl and Klaus Maria Brandauer. Why in hell is this not available on DVD?
So it was with great sadness that I learned the other day that Mühe had died this past summer, right after earning international acclaim for his role in Das Leben der Anderen. He died right when I was travelling to the U.S. with Miles and Luisa, so I missed the news until I saw it in a year-end roundup.