Thanks to the Old Vic’s £10 previews scheme, I get to see many more shows there than I would otherwise. Woyzeck was one of these. Adapted from Georg Büchner’s unfinished 1879 play by Jack Thorne, it starred John Boyega of Star Wars fame, alongside Sarah Greene as his girlfriend Marie and Nancy Carroll as the wife of a senior officer.
Set in Cold War Germany at the time of the Berlin Wall, the soldier Woyzeck is unable to live in barracks as he is living unmarried with his girlfriend and their baby. He is struggling to find enough money to afford their flat, and the stress of this coupled with a traumatic childhood and hints of PTSD threatens to send him over the edge. The drug trial he’s enrolled on doesn’t help matters, either.
I must admit I wasn’t too impressed with this and wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. Boyega does the best he can with what he is given, but the whole thing is rather confused and, dare I say it, dull. Reviews have been fairly complimentary so I must have missed something. I’d like to see Boyega in something else, but this particular play isn’t a favourite.
Described as the “first modern classic”, Georg Büchner’s century-old play Woyzeck has been around in a number of incarnations this year. First there was Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man, an immersive theatrical experience inspired by Woyzeck. Then there was the opera, performed at the Royal Opera House. Now, I finally get to see the play itself, at a new venue, Omnibus Clapham.
The first thing that struck me about Robyn Winfield-Smith’s production was the lush, beautiful set, designed as a dark woodland. The design was incredibly atmospheric and worked well in evoking Woyzeck’s disturbed mind.
The plot, at least in this draft (Büchner wrote four), centres around Woyzeck’s jealousy of his common-law wife’s relationship with a dashing drum major. Poverty-stricken, the subject of dodgy experiments by the local doctor and worked hard by his strict sergeant, Woyzeck is pushed to the edge – and the result is tragic.
This well-acted, professional production was absorbing to watch and left me wondering what ultimately drove the protagonist to act the way he did. It’s definitely a thought-provoking piece, and an impressive first production for this new venue.