Review: Woyzecken

WOYZECKEN Bürger Trinker Antifa, a reworking of Woyzeck by Georg Büchner, at Theaterkapelle in Berlin Friedrichshain
Director: Christina Emig-Könning
Design: Hamster Damm/Olf Kreisel
Adaptation: Raik Stolzenberg

You’ve got to be confident in your production to make the audience watch the first half an hour outside in the middle of November in Berlin. The temperature was zero (I checked afterwards), but I didn’t notice that I was half-frozen until I went inside and discovered I still couldn’t bear to take my hands out of my coat pockets. Studying German in England I must have read Büchner’s still-radical play at least once a year. So imagine the excitement of the geek in me to suddenly find myself in the middle of the story. When Maria sees the Drum Major marching down the street, the Drum Major was actually marching down the street, and we were there too! When we entered the former chapel that serves as the theatre, we were seated at long tables and served beer by a waiter wearing a clown nose and entertained by music from the stage – inside the beer hall where Woyzeck sees Marie dancing with the Drum Major! You get the picture – I was very excited.

The cast rampaged outside and in, attacking their characters, everyone seemingly as detached from reality as Woyzeck himself eventually becomes. As an unfinished work, the order of Büchner’s scenes is not set in stone, but the versions I have seen have all agreed with the standard published text. Stolzenberg’s order, and the decision to repeat the final dialogue between Marie and Woyzeck were refreshing and effective. The character of Woyzeck was embodied by two additional actors, one representing his pain, the other echoing occasional lines and handing him the knife with which he eventually murders Marie. This aspect was probably the most difficult to get to grips with, but the vibrant production pulled it off. There was a wonderful use of space, the actors joining us at the beer hall tables to have a drink, and the steps to the stage being raised up to reveal the next scene already taking place.

A performance which swept its audience along with it and left them reeling; what more can you ask for?

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