Woyzeck by George Buchner adapted by Daniel Kramer – New Wolsey Young Company – New Wolsey Studio till Sat 31st March
This play was left unfinished by George Buchner on his death in 1836 – but since then has become one of the most performed plays in translation out of Germany. Its themes of oppression and manipulation of the working man are both universal and timeless and it resonates as much today as when it was first written.
With a strong cast of twelve, Director Rob Salmon has squeezed every last drop of emotion and violence from a production that is hard hitting and visceral to watch – yet layered with major themes such as morality, class struggle and jealously.
Woyzeck is a poor soldier and as such has no way of escaping his poverty. His delight is his girlfriend Marie and their baby son Christian. But he for him life gives nothing in return but blows both physical and mental. He is being forced to take part in experiments by the barracks Doctor, he is talked down to and bullied by his superiors, and his girlfriend is willingly seduced by the Drum Major from his own regiment. As his life spirals out of control and he descends into madness, tragedy inevitably ensues.
George Howarth plays the title role, and taking the part by the scruff of the neck, wrings a huge range of emotions out of this doomed man in a performance that holds nothing back. Marie (Melina Synadinou) gives just enough away to make us believe in their relationship and her betrayal, Byron Babbs makes the most of the Doctor’s eccentricities, Thomas Beattie is excellent as the pent up, cock sure, explosively angry Drum Major and Charlie Shephard a particularly believable moralizing Captain, completely oblivious to Woyzeck’s mental deterioration.
The rest of the cast keep up the pace with supporting roles and flesh out the story. They wait in a Perspex room before making their entrances, giving an added dimension to the fact of Woyzeck’s life being played out on a public stage where everybody knows his business but nobody is prepared to help him.
The music is modern but well chosen, the fight scenes are very well executed and utterly believable, and a moment when all the characters are at a party and Marie is then seduced is particularly well done.
But these are highlights in an evening full of superb performances and tight direction that belie the ages of these young actors. There is strong language and adult themes throughout, so if you are under 14 or of a delicate disposition this is not for you. But for everyone else I urge you to go along to see this one. You won’t see better performances in any professional production.