Returning to the Barbican after its sell-out success during the Young Genius season, Vestuport Theatre Company’s production of Georg Bűchner’s unfinished masterpiece Woyzeck, which charts the downfall of one of life’s erstwhile survivors. The eponymous hero earns a crust, and nothing more, as servant to the brash Captain. Additionally, he is forced to allow the sadistic Doctor to perform medically dubious experiments on his body and mind.
His poverty makes Woyzeck meek. His social standing makes him amoral in the eyes of the Captain, and “nothing more than a dog” to the Doctor, which in turn perpetuates Woyzeck’s timidity to the oppression he suffers and his appearance of stupidity.
Yet, the Doctor and Captain are known only by their titles. They have no proper names. It is they who lack humanity, compassion, and morality. They manipulate Woyzeck for their own benefit, not for any social gain, and their own strict moralities prevent them from seeing Woyzeck’s deeper good. They berate him.
But Woyzeck can bear all this, and does so with a proud, if somewhat withdrawn dignity, because he shares a love with the angelic, Disney-styled princess Marie. So, when he discovers she is having an affair with a well-to-do Drum Major, “a Man and not a Monkey”, as the new lover cruelly taunts Woyzeck, his life spirals out of control and leads to a last love-crazed, fanatically paranoid act of despair for which he does not understand the consequences; he’s seemingly a man driven mad by obsession.
A retelling of Bűchner’s much-interpreted but incomplete work, based on the real life story of Johann Christian Woyzeck, who was hanged in Leipzig, Germany, in 1824, Gísli Őrn Gardasson’s adaptation is brave and modern while still maintaining the essence of this tragic love story.
Men in Black-style agents, intent on keeping Woyzeck from his beau, Elvis-cross-Barry White serenaders charm the love from the heart of Marie into the hands of our protagonist, and magical roses that fall from the sky bolt upright into the ground, creating an aura of Hollywood – a slightly tongue in cheek, very sophisticated-cool Hollywood. Trapeze artistry and rope-gymnastics add carnival flair to this macabre tale of sexual betrayal, and the huge pipeworks of the factory and massive water tank, which stretches the length of the stage, provide apt and versatile settings that are well worked by all members of the cast.