Dr Roussety’s approach to NSD students’ involvement was highly collaborative in nature. The idea was to create a linguistic fusion wherein each student brought their unique perspective to the play.
In a daring and innovative re-adaptation, the acclaimed German actress and theatre director Dr Jacqueline Roussety recently staged Heiner Müller’s iconic play ‘Hamletmachine’ with the National School of Drama (NSD) final year students, both at NSD’s Bahumukh Auditorium as well as the German Embassy in New Delhi. Müller, a German playwright and theater director, wrote the postmodernist drama ‘Hamletmachine’ in 1977. Loosely based on William Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet,’ ‘Hamletmachine’ was inspired by Müller’s attempt to translate ‘Hamlet’ from Shakespeare.
Coming back to the recent adaptation, Dr Roussety didn’t just direct the play but she also helmed the set, costume, and choreography departments. Known for its strong political and sexual undercurrents, the play’s themes were brought to life through a fusion of Hindi and English dialogues, creating a unique theatrical experience that pushed boundaries and ignited thought-provoking discussions. “I was drawn to ‘Hamletmachine’ because of its fearless exploration of societal and personal turmoil. The play’s themes are universal, and I believed that the energy and passion of NSD’s final year students was a perfect match for such a provocative work,” rejoiced Dr Roussety.
Blending Hindi and English was a conscious choice made by her. “I wanted to transcend linguistic barriers and allow the audience to experience the emotional intensity of the play directly. Blending Hindi and English was a conscious choice to amplify the universality of the emotions portrayed,” she explained. The play serves as a mirror to our times. The re-imagined ‘Hamletmachine’ allows one to draw parallels with current political and social struggles, inviting introspection and dialogue. Its daring narrative cocktail makes room for strong political and sexual overtones, keeping the audience immersed throughout its running time of 90 minutes.
Dr Roussety’s approach to the students’ involvement was highly collaborative in nature. The idea was to create a linguistic fusion wherein each student brought their unique perspective to the play. A major challenge for her was to let the creative juices flow while ensuring that the essence of ‘Hamletmachine’ wasn’t lost in the process. In order to achieve this, she held discussions, workshops, and improvisations with the keenness and the resolve to delve into the more complex layers. “The beauty of ‘Hamletmachine’ lies in its uncompromising examination of societal upheaval. As far as I remember, I yearned for a canvas as daring as possible for the students to paint this vivid tapestry of chaos and introspection,” she recollected.
Another important task for Dr Roussety was to tackle the larger themes at play. “The potency of the play’s political and sexual themes had to be unveiled with care. Our aim was not to shock, but to engage in conversations about power dynamics, oppression, and identity. We wanted the audience to feel the disquiet and urgency of the issues reflected in the play,” revealed Dr Roussety who isn’t averse to pushing the boundaries of traditional theatre. “Witnessing the students’ growth and commitment was truly inspiring during the rehearsals. There were moments of uncertainty, but their enthusiasm and dedication were unwavering,” she added.
Right from the very outset, Dr Roussety wanted to infuse ‘Hamletmachine’ with a fresh lens, one that illuminates the undercurrents of feminism. The play’s exploration of power dynamics, identity, and societal rebellion resonate deeply with this theme.
In Dr Roussety’s adaptation, the feminist voice is as prominent as the beating heart of the play. A clear attempt has been made to amplify the female characters’ narratives, weaving threads of liberation, strength, and resilience. It’s a tribute to women who defy norms and challenge the status quo. «While Müller’s ‘Hamletmachine’ is a powerful discourse on societal turmoil, our rendition navigates through the prism of diversity. Our ensemble consists of 4 boys and 5 girls, each imbuing their characters with a distinct energy. This diversity enhances the narrative, reflecting the vibrant tapestry of humanity,» she explained.
Dr Jacqueline Roussety’s adaptation of ‘Hamletmachine’ can best be described as a transformative experience that will hopefully succeed in pushing the boundaries of theatre and sparking conversations that resonate far beyond the stage. As for the students, the experience will certainly fuel their artistic journeys and empower them to challenge norms.