Woyzeck @ Old Vic Theatre
Cast Includes John Boyega as Woyzeck
Running Time: 2 hours 15 mins, inc. interval
Woyzeck isn’t an easy play. In many senses unfinished, Buchner wrote the piece in fragments throughout his life and due to the fragmented nature of the piece it is up to the individual adapter to bring a lot to the work. Jack Thorne (fresh from his wins for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) brings a lot of humour to his adaptation, but there is a lot of deeply psychological work as the play progresses.
The piece concerns British soldier Woyzeck, who living with his partner and child in 1980’s Germany – struggling to make ends meet and provide the best for his child he enlists into a drug trial which doesn’t improve his already weak mental health. Woyzeck shows his descent into sheer desperation – and how those around him ignore and abuse him. The later half of the play does into some exceptionally peculiar territory and is possibly not for those looking for a light evening out.
Cast as Woyzeck is John Boyega, fresh from his triumphant role in the Star Wars films – there could probably be no further difference in his role. He is able to bring a sheer intensity to the role and a complete desperation as he slow unravels – the other cast members ably support him but it is a tour-de-force from Boyega. He is onstage for most of the show and the piece is exceptionally bleak, with little respite for him.
The staging of the piece is also very evocative – the large concrete-looking blocks that ascend and descend to form the set are simplistic yet also very effective at creating the conformity and bleakness of the world in which Woyzeck finds himself. The greys and muted colours along with the effective use of lighting really grounds the piece in an oppressive and unwelcoming society.
Summary: A superbly performed adaptation of this incomplete work by Buchner. Not for those looking for a comfortable, ‘easy’ night out. ****