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Quartet. A hospital bed. A woman. A man (her carer). A pack of cards. Looking for the missing cards – a possible task and arrangement of the game. And a production in the theatre in the Palace, 1989, 35 years ago, that makes you think. – The power struggles of yesterday have been settled, both privately and politically, no victors in sight, only the memories still linger, the sentences in our heads, knocking in the sewerage system, in our own bodies. “Now we are alone / Cancer my beloved”.

Heiner Müller’s best-known play Quartett in a scenic experimental arrangement with Corinna Harfouch and Oscar Olivo.

Heiner Müller’s “Quartet” (1981) was first performed in Bochum in 1982 under the direction of B. K. Tragelehn – since then it has also been Müller’s most frequently performed and best-known play internationally. Choderlos de Laclos’ epistolary novel “Les Liasiones dangereuses” (1782) formed the basis for the text, Müller’s intention when writing it was to “expose the structure of gender relationships” and “destroy repressions”. He himself described “Quartett”, “Period: Salon before the French Revolution / Bunker after the Third World War”, as a comedy.

In the GDR, the play was not performed until April 1989 at the “theater im palast” under the direction of Bernd Peschke. Six months later, at the beginning of October 1989, Heiner Müller himself appeared on the stage of the “tip” and read the role of Valmont, as the director and leading actor had left the GDR for West Germany via Hungary.

“QUARTETT is a reflection on the problem of terrorism, with material that superficially has nothing to do with it. I never read the original, Laclos’ ‘Dangerous Liaisons’, in its entirety. My main source was Heinrich Mann’s preface to his translation. The main problem in writing QUARTETT was to find a dramaturgy for the epistolary novel, and in the end the only way to do that was to play the game, two playing four. The plan had existed since the 1950s. I was able to write it after MAUSER, or rather after Christof Nel’s production of MAUSER in Cologne in 1980 […].

I was sitting on the top floor of a villa near Rome. I had already started before, but the last third or the second half was written there, for the first time on an electric typewriter. That had consequences for the text. It is more like clockwork than other texts before it. My wife lived in the downstairs rooms with another man who was deeply in love with her. There was certainly an energy emanating from that. I had a small radio with me and a Schubert series was playing on the third program. And I remember a song that was particularly impressive that night, from ‘Die schöne Müllerin’, where the brook invites the boy to commit suicide. ‘And the stars up there, how far they are’.”

(in: Heiner Müller: War without battle. Life in two dictatorships. An Autobiography = Works 9. ed. by Frank Hörnigk, Frankfurt am Main 2005 p. 248-249)

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Participants

Starring: Corinna Harfouch and Oscar Olivo

Sound: Hannes Gwisdek

Video: Roman Kuskowski

Director: Marcel Kohler / Corinna Harfouch

Dramaturgy: Kristin Schulz

Partner

Heiner Müller Archiv

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