Text: News & Stories

Text: Actor Martin Wuttke, who is close to both Einar Schleef and Heiner Müller, loves synthetic theatre that mixes suppressed, bodily, hysterical, and symbolic expression / Drama of metamorphosis / Most recent triumph: Arturo Ui / The conversation with Wuttke took place the day before Heiner Müller’s funeral / Martin Wuttke is now the new director of the Berliner Ensemble  - -

Text: “Get the speedometer needle up to max” / Martin Wuttke, actor and director

Kluge: At the beginning of Heiner Müller’s production, Arturo Ui comes on stage as a dog, panting … how does such a scene happen? Isn’t that much harder on the lungs than even the performance of a Wagner singer?

Wuttke: Yes, well, it is actually an acting trick.

Kluge: How do you do that?

Wuttke: You just have to be careful not to inhale more air than you can exhale, that’s all. If you inhale more air, you start to hyperventilate and you get dizzy.

Text: Martin Wuttke, Berliner Ensemble

Kluge: … you get dizzy. But there is a great deal of panting, and on top of that the restless movements …

Wuttke: Yeah. How that happened? I don’t remember …. we were improvising.

Kluge:  Does the actor make these suggestions?

Wuttke: Yes, that was my own suggestion. There was the basic idea that the character Arturo Ui has a doppelganger, and the doppelganger was supposed to recite original Hitler texts throughout the play, so that people could experience them incorporated into the performance, so to speak. The basic idea was to make it a part of the performance, but it turned out to be useless. And that led to the thing with the dog: I kept coming on stage as the doppelganger’s watchdog.

Kluge: Okay.

Wuttke: I think that was ...

Kluge:  … the original reason.

Wuttke: … the original reason.

Kluge: But now things are different. Now we have Arturo Ui ready for action, but no one asks for him, his labor isn’t needed. During World War I, the undead of Verdun – they fought, they steeled themselves, they were prepared for anything, and were awaiting their fate.

Wuttke: And of course it’s also the stray dog that roams the streets, that’s the story told at the beginning of the play. I believe there are many possible interpretations, but we thought that this could explain a lot about the character.

Kluge: But you and Heiner Müller also don’t care too much about interpretation when you come up with something like that. You are more interested in the specific transformation, the metamorphosis, which can also be ahistorical, so to speak, like Hindenburg and the higher ranks’ contempt for the Bohemian privates of WWI. That isn’t reflected in this play …

Wuttke: No, or at least it is not … during the developmental phase, that wasn’t …. it wasn’t constructed around an interpretation, so to speak, but it was developed during the rehearsals, during one rehearsal, and our working strategy was to collect material, to select material, to use Heiner Müller’s expression.

Kluge: To retrieve ...

Wuttke: Yes, and it was … it was inspired by jokes, silly things that develop in the rehearsal situation. We looked at everything that could possibly emerge within the context of a rehearsal.

Kluge: And he organized everything.

Wuttke: …he organized …

Kluge: And he always says ‘yes’ and nods, but sometimes that means ‘no’ and sometimes ‘yes’, and you’ll know.

Wuttke: Yes, you just know. 

Kluge: …then the bad ideas are eliminated …

Wuttke: Yes, sometimes it’s like that. Of course actors also have their own favorite ideas, something that they particularly like; and sometimes when he doesn’t immediately like the idea, you try to push things through and you fight for it, and try to formulate it more clearly, in the hope that maybe, he’ll say: sure, yes, we cannot use it for this scene, but maybe for a different one …

Kluge: So either it is postponed, or excluded, or … there is always this ambiguity. And things remain in flux, it’s a metamorphosis, because he also doesn’t give very clear answers.

Wuttke: Yes, exactly.


Text: Martin Wuttke, as Bert Brecht’s Arturo Ui / Director: Heiner Müller

Sheet: I’ve run from pillar to post. Pillar was out of town, and Post was sitting in the bathtub. Old friends show nothing but their backs. A brother buys wilted shoes before he meets his brother, for fear his brother will touch him for a loan. Old partners dread each other so they use false names when meeting in a public place. Our citizens are sewing up their pockets.

Flake: So what about my proposition?

Sheet: No. 1 won’t sell. You want a five-course dinner for the price of the tip. And to be thanked for the tip at that. You wouldn’t like it if I told you what I think of you.

Flake: Nobody will pay you any more. 

Sheet: And friends won’t be more generous than anybody else.

Flake: Money is tight these days. 

Sheet: Especially for those in need. And who can diagnose a friend’s need better than a friend?

Flake: You’ll lose your shipyard either way.

Sheet: And that’s not all I’ll lose. I’ve got a wife who’s likely to walk out on me.

Flake: But if you sell … 

Sheet: She’ll last another year. But what I’m curious about is why you want my shipyard.

Sheet: Who’s that?

Flake: Arturo Ui, the gangster.

Sheet: What? 

Flake: If you were selling to us … He’s been pursuing us with offers, wants to sell our cauliflower with his tommy guns. The town is full of types like that right now. Corroding it like leprosy, devouring a finger, then an arm and shoulder. No one knows where it comes from, but we all suspect from deepest hell. Kidnapping, murder, threats, extortion, blackmail, massacre: ‘Hands up!’ ‘Your money or your life!’ It’s got to be wiped out.

Sheet: And quickly. It’s contagious.

Text: Martin Wuttke as Arturo Ui / Final scene

Ui: For such is man. He’ll never put aside his hardware of his own free will, say for love of virtue, or to earn the praises of certain silver tongues at City Hall. If I don’t shoot, the other fellow will. That’s logic.

Wuttke: And there was practically no analysis during the rehearsals. It was even … it was unwanted, or I think he felt it was a disturbance, he personally felt it was disruptive.


Kluge: You visited him again in Munich …

Wuttke: Yes …

Kluge: … And you had a conversation about “Fragment”, which was on his mind a lot, as a form of expression. He created fragments all his life, but he made it more poignant here: What is a fragment? In theatre?

Wuttke: Well…

Kluge: A night at the theater is not a fragment, from the audience’s perspective. The spectator sacrifices an entire night, he cannot come and go, he cannot come as a fragment. The actor can do anything as long as he keeps going …

Wuttke: As long as he keeps going, yes … The point of departure for this conversation in Munich was basically the notion that the closed night at the theater, the full evening, treats the production as a form of expression. And that perhaps the fragment – which is important to his work, which is certainly important to Brecht’s work, which clearly is part of theatre – has to be established in such a theatre as a thematic and formal element of the Berliner Ensemble.

Text: Cabaret? / What is a fragment? / In regard to a night at the theater?

Wuttke: … that it is a certain form of expression with possibilities that differ from the full evening at the theater. That was intensely fascinating to him, and we talked about that. There are a number of ideas of how to realize something like that.

Kluge: Would it be possible to do it as a cabaret?

Wuttke: Yes, we talked about that. But how would we have to imagine that more specifically? That’s a difficult question. Heiner once said, back when he first became artistic director of the theater: You have to find a way to open up the theater space. What he meant was basically to take the doors off the hinges, to remove the doors in order to create an open experience.

Kluge: But that is just going to cause a draft ...

Wuttke: Yes, that’s a risk.

Kluge: But ‘to open up’ could also mean: If the title of the play is “At the Circus”, you would take elements of the circus, which contradicts the rule that circus should be trivial and physical, basically a theatre of attractions, whereas theatre is supposed to be classical. They are opposites.

Wuttke: Yes, they are supposed to be opposites. But I am certain that’s not what he meant. What he meant was that theatre cannot be self-contained.

Kluge: So to get rid of the academics … educated people are welcome, but they are allowed only as helpers, as carriers, in order to isolate the elementary forces – movement, limbs, looks, images – and to reinforce them. 

Wuttke: Yes. And I think the fragment is such an important issue because … in many ways, the execution of a specific idea, a specific thought is not interesting anymore. You only pursue the path, the way this production takes …

Kluge: The justification, so to speak.

Wuttke: Yes, the justification, but actually more interesting is … if you think of a mountain you want to climb or something like that, sometimes it is enough to calculate the slope. That might be much more interesting. Often the production also obscures the thought, the expression.

Kluge: Well, if you look at it from the perspective of Arturo Ui’s dog: extreme exertion. I want to die trying. When I finally make it into the Reich Chancellery, they’ll have to carry out my dead body. This stubbornness, that’s what the dog represents.

Wuttke: Possibly yes.

Kluge: It is a partial character trait. Toughness, persistence. His invincibility is partly due to this trait, his stubbornness, which he doesn’t use for anything else.

Wuttke: Yes, exactly, yes.

Kluge: And if that was possible, we would perform an immense scrap collection of character traits, but we would only perform what is practically reality anyway, an enormous arsenal of materials. An enormous assemblage of traits.

Text: “An enormous assemblage of traits –"

Wuttke: Yes, assemblage is a good word in this context.


Kluge: Would you call yourself a Westerner? A North-Westerner? A North-Rhine-Westphalia-Westerner? Hard to say …

Wuttke:  I don’t know. That word sounds foreign to me.

Kluge: Rhinelander? Westphalian? 

Wuttke: I would say I’m from the Ruhr district. 

Kluge: Ruhr district, that is another option.

Wuttke: Yes, a third option, with its very own identity.

Kluge: Totally. How long has the Ruhr district existed? For about four, five, six generations?

Wuttke: It has existed since the great …

Kluge: … industrialization, since the hardcore phase of industrialization.

Wuttke: Exactly. And the history of the area is closely entwined with it.

Kluge: From where are your ancestors?

Wuttke: From East Prussia, of course, on one side. Actually, both sides are ultimately from East Prussia, because my father’s family, who used to live near Berlin, was originally from East Prussia, that’s where the name Wuttke is from.

Kluge:  People trying to make it …

Wuttke: Yes, yes.

Kluge: And if they don’t settle down in Berlin, they keep moving, and end up in the Ruhr district.

Wuttke: Yes, that was basically a veritable melting pot of people who …

Kluge: An industrial Wild West, different from the agrarian American Old West, but almost at the same time …

Wuttke: Almost the same time, yes. The Ruhr district is a very strong … a very important point of identification.

Kluge: Didn’t you also perform in Einar Schleef’s “Faust II”? What did you do? Which part did you play? The play was performed in front of the theater, at night …

Wuttke: Yes. It was an experiment. I actually played Faust and Mephistopheles, and we tried to merge them into one character, from different points of view …

Kluge: There’s a certain logic to that.

Wuttke: Yes. The devil is not the other, but the devil lives in yourself. Or whatever else might be at work in a person, and however it might become manifest. It was quite difficult, but …

Kluge: …It is night. You are outside of the theater. It begins at midnight. At first, the lighting is still very spotty, it keeps improving once the film crew gets used to it, and you can see more than just the torch-lit scenes. Your first scene is the money scene at the imperial court. And your lines? A long ... not quite a monologue, but a speech … about the hypocrisy of money.

Wuttke: I don’t remember …

Kluge: Paper money. You trace the entire history of money and then you conjure up paper money, you magic forged money into existence …

Wuttke: Paper money, the production of paper money, the invention of paper money.

Kluge: Imperial power is established through the invention of value, of abstract value. The sign language of money and commodities. That is an unusual way to start the play. And then there’s the Easter parade, if I remember correctly.

Wuttke: No, first there is a very long monologue, so to speak, where the double character Faust/Mephistopheles is alone on stage.

Kluge: Okay.

Wuttke: And he can be seen arguing with himself.

Kluge: … during the “Alas, I have studied philosophy” monologue.

Wuttke: Yes, that is basically during the first encounter with the devil, the devil that lives inside him and then comes …

Kluge: So how do you go about making people understand whether you speak as Faust, in the role of Faust, or the role of Mephistopheles? You are not wearing masks.

Wuttke: No. Well, it was interesting, because of course at first you try to match things with this or that character, and label them.

Text: Martin Wuttke, Berliner Ensemble

Kluge: Maybe use a different voice …

Wuttke: Yes, or a different perspective … we tried all these things. But we realized that maybe Faust’s lines contain more of Mephistopheles and vice versa … it was basically one great monologue, one great monologue and then there are suddenly lines where you can see a character being possessed by a voice, or an energy that is foreign to that character – possessed by a certain terror of oneself.

Kluge: What is an actor’s driving force? It is obvious that working only with the mind, or speaking with the mouth, is not enough – there is a kind of channeled energy. I know what it is for a singer, but what is it for an actor?

Wuttke: What is it for the singer?

Kluge: The breath, the belly.

Wuttke: Hard to say, it shifts, it depends. It probably also depends on the author. I think, with Goethe, or a text like “Faust,” it’s about rhythm, the rhythm of language, the meter or so, that definitely has something to do with it. And that is also the foundation for the characters, or a certain perspective – a certain expression that develops out of a rhythm, out of the different meters.

Kluge: Because there is no close-up.

Wuttke: No, no …

Kluge: In close-up, you could change your facial expression. 

Wuttke: Yes, that would be easy to describe, too.

Kluge: … But here, you have to rely on a speaker, not your voice. Could you do it with an amplifier, too?

Wuttke: Oh, that makes me feel more insecure.

Kluge: Could you connect a synthesizer or a distorter – a vocoder – to your voice, in order to create extremely unreal sounds, so to speak? You speak as yourself, but it sounds different? Wouldn’t that be interesting?

Wuttke: Yes, I’ve tried that …

Kluge: That’s how you make your voice sound shrill, something a person would not be able to keep up for a long time.

Wuttke: We tried that once for a project with Robert Wilson, we tried that, but it makes me feel very insecure. I think it’s interesting, but I’m actually more interested in finding out what’s possible in terms of distortion with my own voice, my body …

Kluge: Like a technological interface, and you would … your voice is the muscle and your tuning, your engine, and you would set something in motion, but it would have wings, like Icarus, like Daedalus.


Text: Faust (both parts) in front of the locked Schiller Theater, Berlin, October 16, 1993

Wuttke as Faust/Mephistopheles:

Don’t bring desire for that sweet body

Before every half-maddened sense!

I’m near her, and were I still far,

I can’t lose her or forget her,

I even envy the body of our Lord,

When her lips touch it at the altar.

Where is the heavenly joy in her arms?

Let me warm myself with her charms!

Chorus: Is that singing?

Wuttke as Faust/Mephistopheles: Go in

Chorus: Do I hear sweet lovers sighing,

Heavenly days, do I hear their sounds?

Wuttke as Faust/Mephistopheles:  and comfort

Chorus: What

Wuttke as Faust/Mephistopheles:  her

Chorus: we

Wuttke as Faust/Mephistopheles: you fool!

Chorus: hope for,

Wuttke as Faust/Mephistopheles: When a brain like yours

Chorus: What

Wuttke as Faust/Mephistopheles: no

Chorus: we

Wuttke as Faust/Mephistopheles: exit

Chorus: love!

Wuttke as Faust/Mephistopheles: sees

Text: Martin Wuttke as Faust & Mephistopheles. Production: Einar Schleef

Chorus: And the echo, like a story

of ancient times

Wuttke as Faust/Mephistopheles: It imagines

Chorus: is answering

Wuttke as Faust/Mephistopheles: immediately

Chorus: us.

Wuttke as Faust/Mephistopheles: the

Chorus: Too-wit!

Wuttke as Faust/Mephistopheles: end of all things.

Chorus: Too-woo!

Wuttke as Faust/Mephistopheles: Praise him who keeps up his courage!

You are usually so


sounding nearer,

Owl there, and jay, and plover,

Are they all still awake?

Wuttke as Faust/Mephistopheles: devilish.


Salamanders in the scrub?

Long of leg, and fat of belly!

And roots, like snakes,

are winding over rock and sand,

and stretching out strange bands

to scare us, to catch us;

From the gnarled and living mass,

stretching towards those who pass,

fibrous tentacles. And mice,

multi-colored, in swarms,

in the moss and in the heather!

And the fireflies are flying

in tightly-crowded swarms,

as a disorienting envoy.

Tell me, are we standing still,

Or are we still walking?

Everything seems to spin

Rock and trees, grimacing,

and the phantom lights,

multiplying, growing.

Wuttke as Faust/Mephistopheles:

Horribly, entwined in falling,

they all crash together,

and through the abyss in wreckage,

the winds are hissing and howling.

Hear the voices?


Hear the voices?

Stink and flare!

A real witch-element is here!

They push and shove, they roar and clatter!

They whistle and whirl, jostle and chatter!

They glimmer and sparkle,

stink and flare!

A real witch-element is here!

They push and shove, they roar and clatter!

They whistle and whirl, jostle and chatter!

They glimmer and sparkle,

stink and flare!

A real witch-element is here!

Kluge: Did you include the fifth act in the production?

Wuttke: Mhm. That was … well, the money thing, that was also part of the first …

Kluge: Second act, first act

Wuttke: First act. And the fifth act was basically the finale of the play, and it ends with the ascension, our production ended with the ascension.

Kluge: … with the ascension, but first the worry. Faust is blinded …

Wuttke:  Yes, it was really the blind Faust. 

Kluge: And then, the burial.

Wuttke: The burial, exactly.

Kluge: That’s all …

Wuttke: We put all that on stage, yes.

Kluge: But you also have to play Mephistopheles for the “aside.”

Wuttke: Yes, that there was a divergence in “Faust II,” it was just impossible to keep up. Generally, in certain scenes, it was impossible to keep up, it just didn’t work anymore.

Kluge: Because by the fifth act, Faust has become so independent … he’s a perpetrator.

Wuttke: Yes. And originally, the idea was that I should only play Mephistopheles and that there is really an old Faust, played by Bernhard Minetti – but for various reasons, including health reasons, he couldn’t continue working on the project.

Kluge: And how did you solve the problem? You played Faust?

Wuttke: Yes, I played the role.

Kluge: That wasn’t a problem? If there had been a production of “Mr. Puntila,” for example – could you have played that? Could you have covered for Schleef? Could you play such a role? There was the issue of Schleef’s illness …

Wuttke: Yes, yes…

Kluge: Half the ensemble was sick, everyone was confused. If a state of emergency is declared, could an actor like you cover for someone else, just like that? Do you know these roles by heart?

Wuttke: I don’t know, we would have had to try and see. One problem was certainly that … in this particular case, the entire production was tailored to the actor Einar Schleef in the role of Puntila ...

Kluge: … which made him look great.

Wuttke: Yes. I have seen rehearsals and of course it was made for … designed to fit his particular acting style, that means not really an actor, in that sense. It was something different.

Kluge: He had a speech impediment. 

Wuttke: Yes. And it would have been incredibly difficult for someone else to do that in this production. It would have been necessary to make adjustments.

Kluge: But theoretically?

Wuttke: Theoretically it would be possible, I guess. 

Kluge: So it doesn’t matter if you get thrown for a loop, you were supposed play Mephistopheles in the fifth act, now you play Faust. A professional can do it. They can do it, they know the lines … would you let the prompter help you?

Wuttke: I couldn’t do that.

Kluge: No?

Wuttke: I wouldn’t do it.

Kluge: But you know the lines?

Wuttke: Yes, I know the lines. Being able to deal with the lines would be the basic requirement, the requirement for a quicker replacement.

Kluge: And a certain initial speed allows for the transformation of text into play.

Wuttke: Yes. With Goethe texts, with “Faust,” it is really amazing to catch that moment. With the right driving force, you can just let it carry you.

Kluge: As if it was an opera? 

Wuttke: Basically, yes. 


Text: “Unleashed Theatre” / Theatre of attractions. Meyerhold

Kluge: There is this expression of Meyerhold’s, “Theatre of attractions,” “Unleashed Theatre.” How can we relate to that? After all, it dates back to before the Russian Revolution.

Wuttke: I don’t know, it’s tricky …

Kluge: It’s physical theatre.

Wuttke: Yes. It’s incredibly difficult, because … I think there is a great reluctance, on the side of the actors …

Kluge: But what if there were acrobats among the actors? Is that a possibility?

Wuttke: That would be a wonderful dream, really.

Kluge: The spectators wouldn’t know whether it is an acrobat who expresses himself here. Usually you know: at the ballet, there’s ballet, and in theatre, you see a play. But the two things could be mixed up.

Wuttke: Yes, that would be a wonderful dream. It is the dream that an actor can do anything, that he can walk the tightrope, that he can do flic-flacs …

Text: The dream that an actor can do anything - -

Kluge: That’s impossible …

Wuttke: No, that doesn’t exist. But it would be great if it did. But what is definitely possible, and what I could imagine is turning the play into an enormous attraction: the process of transformation, the process of expression can turn into an experience, into self-referentiality. And right now, theatre, or many expressions in theatre are … well, there is something like the excellence or elegance of an actor in regard to artistic expression. But that is not what I mean, what I mean is really something where the audience can experience the physical act of transformation, what it means for the one who undergoes the transformation.

Kluge: That is possible?

Wuttke: I believe it is possible.

Kluge: Would it be possible to add a close-up of what the actor is doing on stage? At events like a party convention, more and more often they have a big screen, a video image of the speaker, the small person at the lectern, in order to bridge the distance. If you see a close-up of “Tristan,” in Heiner Müller’s production, you can see the extraordinarily close interaction between the singers, much closer than usual with singers. They always say that there is so little acting, but that’s not true. But only a close-up would be able to show that. Would that be a foreign element for the medium of theatre, or is that a possibility? It is a cinematic strategy, after all.

Wuttke: Yes. I don’t know.

Kluge: Which in cinema is often misused. The important thing is not to focus too much on the main plot, but instead a lot could be done by focusing on the transformations, or the connection between main plot and subplot.

Wuttke: Yes, definitely. Definitely. I am not certain, because I am an actor myself, so …

Kluge: Yes. But would you find it confusing?

Wuttke: No.

Kluge: And you do play very accurately, even though you can only be seen in a long shot.

Wuttke: Yes. It’s true, it would be really nice.

Kluge: That means, when your body does something, you cannot stop your face from doing what would be appropriate for a close-up.

Wuttke: What I like about the idea is … It makes me think of this story about Heiner. When he was asked about his first theatre experience – or maybe his second –, he talked about how he went to the theater to see “Tristan and Isolde.” He must have had a seat in the first row, or at least in the front, and he remembered a curtain of saliva, because while singing … because it is incredibly exhausting.

Kluge: …but he has good eyes, and this detail becomes the main plot.

Wuttke: Yes. And they were spitting the entire time, and he was talking about a curtain of saliva in regard to this play. That is kind of interesting, I think. It is also a certain physical expression of what’s happening.

Kluge: Two machines, two singing machines that are played against each other and have to bear it.

Wuttke: Yes, and I find the expression very interesting. If it would be possible to see something like that, for example, that would be great, that would be very interesting.

Text: How did you get to work with Einar Schleef?

Kluge: Tell us: How did you get to work with Mister Schleef?

Wuttke: We met in Frankfurt. I started working at the theater in Frankfurt and …

Kluge: As someone from the Ruhr district, does it make a difference to attend acting classes?

Wuttke: Yes, I went to acting school in Bochum.

Kluge: Yes.

Wuttke: I think I wouldn’t have under other circumstances, but there happened to be one in town, and it was a good opportunity …

Kluge: Was that during Zadek’s time in Bochum?

Wuttke:  No, it was during Peymann’s time.

Kluge: Oh, Peymann.

Wuttke: Yes, Zadek had just left. 

Kluge: Right. And then you went to Frankfurt. What did you do there first?

Wuttke: Well, at first I had a lot of minor roles, like everyone who starts doing theatre, and then my first real big success was “Hamlet.”

Text: Martin Wuttke, Berliner Ensemble

Wuttke: And basically right after the performance, a few days later, I met Schleef – he was waiting at the gate of the theater, and handed me a text …

Kluge: “Theseus.”

Wuttke: Yes. And he asked if I wanted to participate in his “Mother project.” I went over the text, called him: “Sure, I'll do it!”, went to the rehearsal, and that was that.

Kluge: He hired you immediately.

Wuttke: Yes, and the atmosphere during the rehearsals was not something I was used to. But since I wasn’t that familiar with theatre anyway, it was simply another new experience. But it was very difficult for me to understand what he wanted, what he was getting at … Of course that was the first time in spoken theatre that a chorus was given such a dominant role, basically all the major parts in this production are choruses, really large choruses. And the main part of the production were chorus passages. Unpolished, almost woodcut-like, not chiseled like Schleef’s later productions – those had very polished chorus passages that were not just rhythmically, but also melodically different. But here, it was woodcut-like and very uncouth and very, well, violent, it was an extremely forceful form of expression. And it drew an incredibly agitated response.


Kluge: You were also in “Don Carlos.” Which role did you play in “Don Carlos”?

Wuttke: Don Carlos.

Kluge: Okay, yes. Could you describe Don Carlos? What kind of guy is he? In Schiller’s play?

Wuttke: I played the role … I read a biography, a description of the life story of …

Kluge:  … of the real …

Wuttke: …the real Don Carlos.

Kluge: He was a sadist, and insane.

Wuttke: Yes, basically a monster.

Kluge: A monster. He cut little children and slaughtered chicken and so on …

Wuttke: Yes, and my idea was basically – how does the image of such a character clash with Schiller’s text, with a text that idealizes him, really.

Kluge: He used the drama, the royal drama as a vehicle to critique the authorities, to incriminate the monarchy, to empathize, to make an extra profit at the stock market of emotions. But you took the image of the midget descendant of an incestuous family …

Wuttke: Exactly. It was my personal experiment, so to speak.

Kluge: Useless for the king … and he is now the subject of a power play, the apple of discord in the most literal sense.

Wuttke: Exactly. That was my little experiment during the production, it was really fun. But it was also confusing, of course.

Kluge:  The ideal figure to play an evil character …

Wuttke: Of course that didn’t really work either, it didn’t really work, because the pull of the text is often strong enough to … or my own strength wasn’t evolved enough, and then you succumb to the pull of the text.

Kluge: Which queen loves whom? Why does she love an imbecile?

Wuttke: Well, that was an interesting story, because it started out as a long penpalship, for a long time they only knew each other in writing. They had met briefly as children, had only been allowed to catch brief glances, and then it turned into a long correspondence. And Anne Benn, who grew up bilingual and spoke French fluently, played the queen, and there was … we included little scenes, without getting the approval of the director, very partisan-like, where we spoke French, like a secret language, so to speak.

Kluge: Under your breath? 

Wuttke: Yes, or from between clenched teeth. There was an encounter, the famous encounter at the end, when they meet secretly one last time. It started with us quoting a Rimbaud poem in French, together, that was basically the codeword for our meeting. And still, there was always the imbalance, between the lady and the imbecile …

Kluge: By the way, what is tragedy? If Heiner Müller had ever taken on this material: What is tragic about a character, if we take the real Don Carlos, who’s basically not more than a failed crown prince. That would not be completely foreign to Heiner Müller, because Friedrich II in “Gundling” … we get to see how his father almost kills him. Peter the Great, whom Heiner Müller often mentions, did not just punish sailors by keelhauling them, but also killed his son because he thought him unfit. Power play and infanticide, isn’t that a typical Müller plot?

Wuttke: Absolutely, yes. I cannot explain what … I don’t know how to describe …

Kluge: Then Posa changes into someone who latches onto a piece of power.

Wuttke: Yes, in our production, Posa suddenly became a traitor towards his imbecile friend; suddenly, imperceptibly, somehow he actually became a traitor, because … because the relationship to this character, this person, became unbearable.

Kluge: Everyone revolves around this miniature sun, the future sun. And when something goes wrong and all the parties who bet on the crown prince go bankrupt – that’s drama.

Wuttke: Yes. And suddenly Posa was much closer to Philipp. The introduction of diplomacy made Posa … suddenly, Posa was more of a son to Philipp than Carlos.

Kluge: He also would have been the favorite son.

Wuttke: Yes.

Kluge: So, if he had adopted him – which among Roman emperors would be a regular form of succession – the play would have a happy ending. Looking for happy endings in classic tragedies, that could also be a challenge for the theater repair shop.

Wuttke: Mhm.

Kluge: Kind of affirmative, but really, why not focus on the alternative endings of tragedies, to complement the series of hopeless tragedies? Which could be put on stage as individual acts.


Kluge: People talk about the Mommsen era, and the second Heiner Müller era, when he basically kept putting opposites together, for a while. The early era, before the fall of the Berlin wall, was when Bob Wilson did his epic play “Gilgamesh,” and Müller was supposed to write the libretto.

Wuttke: Yes, he was supposed to write the libretto. He couldn’t – for certain reasons, he wasn’t able to work, he didn’t want to come in for rehearsals, he always refused, even though he kept making a lot of suggestions.

Text: Martin Wuttke, Berliner Ensemble

Kluge: He is willing, but persistent. 

Wuttke: Yes.

Kluge: So he is a “Nick”, who puts up with everything, he signs contracts, but he only does it … he is incorruptible.

Wuttke: Yes. He also complied with many suggestions about what texts to use. There was a co-author, Darryl Pinckney, an American, who provided a lot of material, and he and Heiner got along great. Heiner’s strategy was mostly to give him cues he could work with, that kind of thing … But he himself wouldn’t write anything, to the point where Bob Wilson despaired. Heiner was sought after.

Kluge: He wanted to direct. The mill needs grain to work.

Wuttke: Yes, the mill needs grain to work. There was never enough material, it was incredibly difficult.

Kluge: He was unwilling, he had writer’s block.

Wuttke: Yes, it didn’t work. He was sought after, but he was always traveling. When he actually showed up to rehearsals, without any material … I would go to the rehearsals, I played Gilgamesh, and then he’d say: “What did you dream about last night?” And I’d say …

Kluge: Nothing …

Wuttke:  Nothing. “Think harder, what did you dream about?” Yeah, I guess I dreamed something. “Write it down.”

Kluge: Artlessly.

Wuttke: Artlessly, without … simply what you remember, it doesn’t need to be a story, there doesn’t need to be any logic to it, just what it is.

Kluge: Words.

Wuttke: Words. I wrote it down, gave it to him, he passed it on to Bob Wilson, and that would be the lines for the next scenes. That was his … I found that unbelievable.

Kluge: He does not do that with everyone, but to formulate it the other way around: this is how he expresses himself. But his attitude is that he is willing to promote sales, but not with his own words.

Wuttke: Yes. And the only line that survived, as far as I know, the only line of his own in the production was: “There is an old man sitting on a rock, afraid of landscape.”

Kluge: What does that mean?

Wuttke: An old man is sitting on a rock and is afraid of the landscape.

Kluge: It was a crisis for him. It’s not like he is stingy, or that he couldn’t churn out words like a phone book …

Wuttke: No, he couldn’t.

Text: “Get the speedometer needle up to max” / Martin Wuttke, actor and director

Kluge: It’s not the artistic discipline, but a writer’s block, there are forces working against each other inside of him, and as long as that is the case, he doesn’t do anything.

Wuttke: Yes. He could think of a large number of texts dealing with the topic, he could make connections and so on, but …

Kluge: Every other topic, he would have provided extensive information …

Wuttke: Yes, but it didn’t work, he was unable, he didn’t have anything or didn’t want to say anything about it …