Writer: Georg Büchner
Director, translator and adapter: Sebastian Rex
Music: James E. Anderson
Reviewer: Ann Bawtree
The Public Reviews Rating:
Written just before the author’s untimely death from typhus at the age of twenty three, the unfinished play has been open to many adaptations, especial in the exact manner of the death of the central character. This version by the “Acting Like Mad” company is set for only four characters, the Oppressor (Jamie Laird), the Drunk (Sarah Hall), The Woyzeck (Edward Evans) and his Lover (Elisa King). It is the depressing tale of the power of one human being over another, a lowly, despised, unconsidered and therefore worthless individual.
In an effort to earn extra money for his child and its mother, The Woyzeck submits to being the subject of various medical experiments which amount to both physical and mental torture. In this version he is a barber and soldier and it is notable that while the original play is simply titled “Woyzeck” the use of the definite article emphasises the disregard in which he is held. He is simply raw material for research, a thing.
We are taken through the degrees of deprivation which The Woyzeck suffers until driven to madness and death in a series of scenes played in a simple set, by designer Anna Soboleva and realised by Yaroslava Sydorenko, of revolving screens set at 120 degrees to each other. They represent the barber’s shop, the couple’s home and the open air. Unobtrusive music punctuates the action and the harsh lighting of Mathew Breslin adds to the starkness of the drama. It is considered likely that, had he lived, Büchner would have become Germany’s most iconic playwright although he was considered too revolutionary in his time, his previous play “Lenz” having been banned for its realism.
The play is part of this year’s A Level syllabus and so it was not surprising that a very large contingent of teenage students were attending. There was the usual hubbub of shrieking laughter and ”Come and sit next to ME!” and “No, no, over HERE!” as they poured in and settled themselves. Suddenly a door open stage right and the Oppressor arrived with a menacing “HELLO!”. Immediate silence fell was followed by rapt attention throughout. Such is the power of the actor.