Elfriede Jelinek

Ulrike Maria Stuarten

"Two queens battle for discursive power. Elfriede Jelinek's play reunites Schiller's Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I again as Ulrike Meinhof and Gudrun Ensslin. Still united only in their antagonism, the one doubting (Ulrike/Mary), the other unbendingly convinced of the necessity of her own actions (Gudrun/Elizabeth), they bring to life once more the history of the RAF, which found its bloody highpoint almost 30 years ago, in 1977, during the German Autumn.
What drove them into the underground back then? Where did the armed struggle lead? The two women wander as un-dead through various historical periods that leave them no peace. One sensitive point in their conflict is the man, the child, Andreas (Baader) - 'Baby', as Gudrun likes to call him. More troublesome, however, is the question of whether they were, and to the present day still are, all products of an ideology that narrowed people's perspectives until they lost touch with reality."
(Rowohlt Theaterverlag)

Responses to the Play:

"However, this play gains its vitality and explosive power not from its examination of the past […], but from its need and helpless inability to formulate a counterposition to the capitalist economism of our days. Ulrike personifies the failure of the intellectual engagement with history; together, Ulrike und Gudrun constitute an aporia, the irresolvable dead end of any political or intellectual attempt to act on behalf of the people. And Jelinek runs again and again against the locked door behind which a different country, the counter-project, once lay. The loud crashing of the iron is the ultimate pleasure of her language."
(Peter Michalzik, Frankfurter Rundschau, 30 October 2006)

"In her latest play, Ulrike Maria Stuart, Elfriede Jelinek depicts the female struggle for political power. She gives voices to the 'terror queens', Ulrike Meinhof and Gudrun Ensslin, who shook the Federal Republic of Germany as cofounders of the Red Army Faction (RAF). At their side, Jelinek places two historical queens, who also burdened themselves with bloody guilt - Friedrich Schiller's Mary Stuart and her opponent, Queen Elizabeth of England. In three parts, Jelinek portrays the battle of the queens as it becomes an implacable duel, during which the political and the private mingle. In Jelinek's play, Schiller's historical heroines merge with Meinhof and Ensslin, two enemies of the state, to form the synthetic figures of Ulrike/Mary and Gudrun/Elizabeth. The women's flow of language, consisting of hybrid verbal constructions, statements ripped out of context and historical and literary quotations, reveals the impossibility of combining the ambition, the will and the deed. Jelinek makes the queens despair at their own meaninglessness and aimlessness, like restless unredeemed spirits of history."
(Schauspiel Hannover, 2007)

"Two women stand at the centre of the new play by Elfriede Jelinek: Ulrike Meinhof and Gudrun Ensslin. It is also about Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I of England - women who were linked by fate. And it is about power, concrete female power. While this is conferred upon the queens through their blood line, the RAF women need to use violence if they are to attain it. They are presumptuous enough to want to do more than merely write their own history - admittedly in the belief that the people have placed a duty upon them to do so. In their desire to become the protagonists of these histories, they sacrifice their femininity. And are destroyed in the attempt. The madness that hubris inflicts on the revolutionary, anti-bourgeois individual blinds them to general needs, as well as their own.
In Ulrike Maria Stuart, Jelinek continues her systemic montaging of contradictory textual materials. A game of permanent concealing and revealing generates projections of the characters that encompass their own condition as well as the mythical and its deconstruction."
(Thalia Theater Hamburg, 2006)

Technical Details

Premiere 28 October 2006, Thalia Theater Hamburg
Director Nicolas Stemann
Cast Variable
Rights Rowohlt Theater Verlag
Hamburger Str. 17
21465 Reinbek
Postfach 1349
21453 Reinbek
Tel:+49 40 7272270, Fax:+49 40 7272276 theater@rowohlt.de
Translations Theatre Library