Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck follows one man’s descent into the rabbit hole of insanity and remains titanic on the landscape of modern drama through the universality of its central themes.
Büchner’s damning social critique is a working-class German tragedy worthy of its Sophoclean predecessors, making it a challenge for any established performance group: so as Open Theatre are the new kids on the block on LUU’s theatrical scene the play was a brave choice. Luckily for them, it paid off. Mostly. Director Alice Boulton-Breeze created a clear and consistent vision that remained sinister from start to finish, and the disconcerting atmosphere was brilliantly rendered through the effective use of the Chorus as Woyzeck’s conscious. However at times the Chorus became too much to bear and lacked overall subtlety in its grotesquery. An intelligent idea: our minds became as stifled and claustrophobic as Woyzeck’s, however a sharper focus on the protagonist’s individual conflict would have heightened our pathos for his situation and subtly improved the play.
Similarly, the incessant choral humming between scenes was somewhat overdone and often unnecessary. Having said that, Mike Sugden plays a convincing Woyzeck. His stricken interpretation of the character ticked all the boxes, though ultimately it lacked the necessary gravitas. Equally, Emily Taylor’s portrayal of Marie was confident in its delivery, although only deepened in its intimacy as the plot unravelled.
The true star of the production, though, was Charlotte Young. Acting as the fanatical Doctor, her portrayal was utterly compelling and reinvigorated the play at times when it was lacking a real sense of depth. Overall, Open Theatre’s interpretation of Büchner’s naturalistic tragedy was well directed and performed, though not profound. With a few tweaks to make the production more nuanced it could grasp more deeply the great tragedy of the original.
words: Rebecca Wignall