Hamletmachine & Ophelia’s Red Sweater Dress

Ines Ortner (director and costume designer) approached me back in September with her designs of Ophelia’s big Act 5 dress, the Red Sweater Dress. I was immediately intrigued- a dress made out of over 25 knitted red sweaters, a train that limits actors’ movement and a cage around the head containing LED lights. Not something I had seen before. It was stunningly haunting.

For Ortner, the Red Sweater Dress symbolizes industrialization, which is linked to the role of women in the textile industry and the wealth of countries. The textile industry and knitting to this day are considered a woman’s work, looked down upon by the male dominated art schools and critics. “It was important to me to give Ophelia a loud voice and lots of space, more than the script allows”, says Ines.

Ines Ortner working on The Red Sweater Dress

Ines Ortner working on The Red Sweater Dress

In Hamletmachine (by Heiner Mueller, 1977), Ophelia fights against the social and economic structures created by men. She is focused, dedicated and relentless beyond reason. trying to take control of her fate even if there is no hope for her fight. She is the revolutionary trapped in the traditional system that tries to break down social norms, but ultimately fails in the end. “Ophelia is fighting a fight that she can only loose but gives herself up fully in the process.” Her struggle is represented by the evolution of her costume throughout the play, concluding with the poignant Red Sweater Dress.

Through the LED lights in the cage of the dress, Ines creates a “nothingness character”.

“After all this bloody drama in red, there is this calm cool, soothing emptiness. Even when it is covered it up with gauze, it always comes through. It is probably safe to say that the lights are the only sign of hope in this play.”

The Sweater Dress is proud, in your face, loud, beautifully haunting – grotesque, yet poetic.

Come and experience Ines Ortner’s design vision of Heiner Mueller’s Hamletmachine on April 25th through 27 @ 7:30PM in the UBC Dorothy Somerset Studio Theatre. To reserve tickets, email info@hamletmachine.ca. Tickets are free. Donations are accepted at the door.

Read more about the mounting of this production at http://hamletmachine.sites.olt.ubc.ca/

~ Guest post by Amelie Schumacher

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