Review: Woyzeck

Dramasoc’s production of Woyzeck is an ambitious take on a truly challenging play. Woyzeck is both unfinished and ambiguous in its narrative and intentions, leaving any director to decide exactly what story they want to tell. Here, Director Katy Frost constructs a narrative of power, lust and betrayal.

Frost has made the bold decision to reorder the scenes in a circular, non-chronological order, displaying crucial, climactic events before showing how they were reached. For the most part, this is a very effective tactic as the audience is imbued with a sense of trepidation as the play returns to its start point. There are a few scenes out of the conventional order which seem to only serve to confuse the already fairly complicated narrative, but for the most part, the story is well ordered.

The performances are broadly strong – Leo Jarvis manages to encapsulate the deteriorating state of Woyzeck without ever slipping into caricature, and he has a wonderful innocence even in the darker scenes. Caitlyn Burrows is excellent as Maria, drawing out the dichotomy of the character as one who is both too naive for her own good, and also weak in the face of temptation and indulgence. Supporting roles such as the Captain and Doctor are ably performed by Ellie Ward and John Chisham respectively, while the cast as a whole works very well in the ensemble sections.

This production features sections of stylised movement within transitions and most notably in an extremely well executed section between Maria and the Drum Major (Max Manning). Burrows and Manning handle the thoughtful choreography with ease, using the medium to add depth to a relationship not fleshed out by the script. It was a shame that this technique was not applied more widely – several other scenes would have benefitted from being presented in a more stylised manner.

The show could have perhaps been improved by greater clarity of concept – it was not clear what message was being conveyed at times, with distracting use of video projections to display various scenes from current political events alongside videos of characters interacting. Likewise, the costumes were a strange mixture of simplistic and more meaningful choices, with some characters having clear thematic journeys shown through costume and others displaying little clue as to the reason behind their outfit. Lighting and sound were put to far better use, creating a subtle but tangible sense of entrapment and jarring sensations which reflected Woyzeck’s frail mental state throughout the play.

Overall, this is an ambitious take on a difficult script. The concept is a little unclear but the performances are solid and the decision to reorder the script offers a tense, driven narrative which is well handled. There are elements which need rethinking or developing further, but on the whole, this production is both entertaining and thought provoking.

Woyzeck, written by Georg Büchner and directed by Katy Frost, is being performed on Friday-Sunday Week 8 at 7:30 in the Drama Barn. Ticket available on the door and online (£4/5).

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