Reviewed – 16th September 2020
“Although hit and miss, Theatro Technis is leading starved audiences out of theatre lockdown with this fun and quirky adaptation of a classic.”
Georg Büchner’s fragmented masterpiece, Woyzeck, tells the tale of a tormented soldier living in a provincial German town. He toils to provide for his wife Marie and young child. His sense of duty leads him to suffer – first at the hands of his machismo army superiors, and then under the auspices of a scientist come doctor who afflicts Woyzeck with strange experiments. All the while Woyzeck’s mental health and family life are in decline. He suffers increasingly from delusions while Marie begins an affair with a preening army Drum Major.
Director Gavin McAlinden opens with an ensemble of his expansive cast. We look in on a rowdy cabaret club. With neither Woyzeck or Marie to be seen, the emphasis creates a sense of ostracization that Woyzeck is later to suffer. Cutting through the rabble Agnes Panasiuk treats us to a rendition of Sammy Lerner’s Falling in Love Again in the first of a series of apt musical numbers. In truth, the opening scene encapsulated the highlights and lowlights of this night’s performance. The ensemble didn’t quite manage to create the atmosphere of a club without shouting over the singer. However, when they finally quieten down, Panasiuk’s beautiful singing voice provides a truly compelling moment of intimacy between performer and audience.
The manuscript for Woyzeck was incomplete and splintered at the time of Büchner’s death. It’s a sort of Meccano set of a play. Each scene can be compiled in almost any order and serves to heap ever greater pressure onto the poor wretch Woyzeck. Russell Bradley emphasises this sense of mounting pressure by tying things together with rumbling action music.
Some of these scenes are truly captivating. None more so than with Clayton Black’s performance as Woyzeck’s Captain. He flits wonderfully between shouting and sotto voce when Woyzeck is asked to shave him. Creating a strange sense of unhinged control and delivering a truly sinister atmosphere culminating in him turning the tables on Woyzeck and taking the open blade to his neck. Elsewhere, the experimental scientist – played by Agnes Panasiuk as the caricatured ‘mad scientist’ provides welcome comic relief.
Sadly, it is the strength (or volume) of these performances that sometimes upsets the emotional tone of the overall piece. The humble Woyceck, played by Andreas Krügserson, is too often drowned out by these larger than life characters, leaving ever smaller spaces for the audience to empathise with his plight. More troublesome still – sound problems frequently emerge, leaving dialogue inaudible or otherwise hard to capture. All of this led to the emotional cadence of the piece becoming a sort of free for all attack on Woyzeck, which was hard to buy into.
Although hit and miss, Theatro Technis is leading starved audiences out of theatre lockdown with this fun and quirky adaptation of a classic. It will no doubt get slicker as its short run continues, and the standout morsels alone are enough to whet any dry appetite.
Reviewed by Euan Vincent
Photography by Crispin Holland
Theatro Technis until 20th September
Previously reviewed by Euan: