Ewald Palmetshofer

hamlet ist tot. keine schwerkraft (“hamlet is dead. no gravity”)

Dani and Mani come home. It is their grandma’s birthday, apart from which a friend from earlier, Hannes, has just died. So they find themselves celebrating a birthday and then going to a funeral as well. By chance, Dani and Mani bump into Bine and Oli at the cemetery. They have not been together for a long time, since the days when Oli was good friends with Mani, and Dani was good friends with Bine, and they were all good friends with one another.
And Oli was interested in Dani too, one way or another, but she was Mani’s sister of course, and he did not want to get his fingers burnt. It was far easier with Bine. Which is why they are now married as well. And, one way or another, there is nothing left over for Dani and Mani. And nowhere else for them to go either. They are almost as dead as Hannes because no one counts on them any longer. Their mother dreams of matricide. Their father dreams of starting from scratch again. It is inevitable that something is eventually going to happen. And there is no point waiting for help from on high because heaven is, unfortunately, empty. So maybe all that is needed is a cord pulled tight across the stairs to finally get things moving. And people keep dying all the time. Umpteen thousands. In Africa for example.

“hamlet is dead. no gravity” deals with how human beings tense up in unwanted situations, when they grind to a standstill, realise they have no prospects. Heaven is empty. The law of nature at best a lyrical joke. And politics do not exist beyond one’s own condition. Now that the total economisation of our living space has become a reality, the axes are spinning fast, the world is a centrifuge and the question of whether to be or not to be loses significance when it has already been decided what the answer is: not to be. To penetrating comic effect, Ewald Palmetshofer weaves language and rhythm into something threatening that ultimately leaves just one question open: To resign or to act?
(Fischer, Theater und Medien)

Responses to the Play:
“But it has been a long time since there was such a fine family piece as ‘hamlet is dead. no gravity’. On the one hand, it does everything Ibsen could do – the slow stripping away of the layers behind human facades – but, on the other, it finally makes the old Norwegian look as old as he really is: well over a hundred, after all. [...] At the outset, several people meet quite by accident at the funeral for Hannes – Mani, Dani, Oli and Bine’s old friend. Ewald Palmetshofer hits top form at this point, even if none of them seem to be making any headway and they all shove tattered scraps of hopelessly confused everyday chat at each other through the cemetery air as if they were at a bridge party. In bridge too, nothing happens for a long time, until it is all too late. Before Ewald Palmetshofer, no one had written dialogues like this, in which it is possible for the present to dangle underdetermined between the past and the future. [...] His characters, whose voices circulate in his head, are more intelligent than society would acknowledge, believes Ewald Palmetshofer: ‘They are shrewd, and that raises them above their situation.’ They originate in the old social play, still live as if in a family drama, would have become critical popular theatre 30 years ago and today are probably contemporary theatre for people in whose lives nothing really important happens and on whose toes time is gently, but ever more firmly, treading.”
(Franz Wille, “Theater Heute”, 02/2008)


“A young married couple and a brother and sister who were once close to them meet up again at the funeral of a friend who has been shot by his father. The siblings’ mother is, in turn, hatching murderous plans to dispose of their troublesome grandmother, who will not die and has no intention of dying – the most radical conceivable way of terminating the generation contract. But rarely have family tragedies such as these been dealt with as briskly as in this play. Hamlet is dead, and good and evil are in the world that is depicted here, not philosophical categories any longer.
Palmetshofer has not invented the genre of the brutal family farce. Nevertheless, the author is probably the most unyielding among the many first-timers at Mülheim. His play, which combines wonderfully meaningless, prattling dialogue with erratic blocks of monologue, develops an exciting rhythm and a novel sound. His vocabulary is unusual as well: Palmetshofer makes his characters speak in mathematical or geometrical terms when they analyse their lives. The play’s full title is ‘hamlet is dead. no gravity’; you can’t even trust the laws of physics in these parts nowadays.”
(Wolfgang Kralicek, Mülheim Theatertage 2008)


“No ideology, no religion, only the self. Palmetshofer’s play oscillates between family history, incest, religious history and social history. The attractive thing about it is that it shows how all these things somehow belong together, but at the same time our minds fail to grasp the connections. Palmetshofer makes his characters speak just as people think: in fragments, in half-sentences and incomplete sentences that sometimes get tangled up in one another, sometimes crumble apart... […] In all the talk of ‘total transcendence’, the ‘economy of the future’, functions, centrifuges and heaven, which is a machine – ‘now God has gone away’ –, one recognises the contemporary human being in all its half-pathetic, half-touching, somehow ironic yearning for meaning and greatness.”
(“Nachtkritik”, 23 November 2007, Lena Schneider)
Technical Data
Premiere 22 November 2007, Schauspielhaus Vienna
Director Felicitas Brucker
Cast 3 F, 3 M
Rights S. Fischer Verlag
Theater und Medien
Translations Theatre Library