Home » London Theatre Reviews » Woyzeck by Georg Büchner at Theatro Technis | Review

Woyzeck by Georg Büchner at Theatro Technis | Review

Woyzeck Andreas Krugersen by Crispin Holland.
Woyzeck Andreas Krugersen by Crispin Holland.

The Great Gatsby meets Cabaret in this production of Woyzeck, one of those plays famous in the theatre world but lesser-known more generally. When its writer, Georg Büchner (1813-1837) died of typhus, the play was still unfinished, and therefore there have been various interpretations of it. Its leading characters, somewhat unusually for a work of its time, are all working class, and now, in the early twenty-first century, where (according to some sources) suicides and suicide attempts are statistically highest among younger males, there is much relevance in witnessing Franz Woyzeck’s (Andreas Krügersen) decline in mental health.

Rehearsed largely in lockdown through Zoom, the cast managed some in-person rehearsals, apparently on Hampstead Heath. But they have risen to the challenge of finding new ways of putting a production together well, and the production flows quite naturally. Woyzeck himself is palpably nervous as his stage of agitation gets worse, eliciting some sympathy from the audience. The Captain (Clayton Black) is suitably authoritative, though one wonders whether he should just get someone else to work directly under him if he is so incredibly disappointed with Woyzeck.

The inclusion of a number of songs in the production stops the show from being relentlessly dark, a wise choice at a time when theatre audiences need, more than ever, to be uplifted. An early scene on a cold winter’s night is convincingly staged with good lighting (or rather, the lack of lighting, though I trust you know what I mean) and the use of a few branches and twigs being used to keep a fire going. Some large ensemble scenes, on the other hand, have a fairground feel to them, busy and bustling – a show within a show, if you will.

Some exaggerated German accents will not be to everyone’s taste (they are not, perhaps mercifully, to be found across the board), but it works in the case of The Doctor (Agnes Panasiuk), a bombastic and expressive figure, one of those ‘trust me, I’m a doctor’ personalities, convinced that a diet solely consisting of peas is going to cure Woyzeck of his anxiety. Steadily paced, the production goes through the full gamut of human emotion, occasionally within the same scene, which does admittedly can be disorienting: at one point, the action switches from pleasurable to confrontational, as The Drum Major (Crispin Holland) goes from entertaining the crowds to attacking Woyzeck.

There is, just about, enough ambiguity to provide audiences with food for thought: was Woyzeck somewhat doomed from the start, exploited as a guinea pig in the name of medical advancement, mistreated at work and with a home life that left much to be desired? Did Woyzeck’s partner Marie (Kia Kielty) get her comeuppance by the end, or was she also a victim more than anything else?

Either way, the vulnerability of the central character felt incredibly real, which is quite an achievement in a show as surreal as it is punchy. It’s also, if extrapolated to the modern-day, quite an indictment on our times, in which the working class majority is still treated unfairly and beaten down (albeit metaphorically these days). A bold and invigorating take on a German classic.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

The Acting Gymnasium return to Theatro Technis with a new production of Georg Büchner’s masterpiece set in Berlin’s Weimar cabaret scene. Discovered in fragmented form after the playwright’s death in 1837, Woyzeck deals with the dehumanising effects of doctors and the military on a young man’s life. Admired by both naturalists and expressionists Woyzeck has become one of the most influential and performed plays in German theatre. This piece was rehearsed during lockdown mainly via Zoom. The theatre will be taking all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of the audience. The wearing of face masks is compulsory.

Theatro Technis, 26 Crowndale Road, NW1 1TT.
Monday 14th to Sunday 20th September at 7:30 pm


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