June 19, 2018
Woyzeck is the story of a simple soldier returning home after fighting abroad for his country only to discover that inexplicably everything he has fought for has turned against him. Nothing works for him any more, neither home, nor the support of his community, not even his family of wife and young child.
In director Roxana Silbert’s expert hands, drama and dance come together (although it’s the drama well to the fore) in this Rep production ‘in association with’ the Birmingham International Dance festival, as Georg Buchner’s original text is powerfully revitalised by writer Leo Butler from its early nineteenth century origin and brought firmly up to date – this could be anywhere in the world, now.
The plot subverts cliché on every level as the hero and survivor Woyzeck finds that for him ironically the peace is even worse than the war, leading to disasters not only exquisitely personal and private but also very public.
This is a bleak view of the world but in this vibrant production its ironies are retold with a verve, vigour and breezy fatalism that coolly delivers a sense of the world marching heartlessly by as private miseries are left unrewarded and unavenged.
Jalleh Alizadeh is marvellous as Woyzeck’s wife Marie but it is the role of the hapless Woyzeck himself by whom this production succeeds or fails and here we see a spectacular triumph in Thomas Pickles’ marvellously touching portrayal of this very ordinary young man, unlettered and not special who is the hapless butt of fate and even of society’s so-called more benign institutions. For this is not the story of generals and heroes, rather a crie de coeur on behalf of the little man, here the misunderstood and entirely downtrodden Woyzeck, who in trying to act correctly is caught up disastrously in events and the machinations of institutions far outside his own imagining,
victim of every mishap and conspiracy against individual freedom, dupe even of the medical profession whose dedication should be nurturing and healing but which instead conspires maliciously in his downfall.
Choreographer Rosie Kay does a sterling job in bringing dance into the action. With over 100 local performers joining the two leads, she once again showed her penchant for theatricality and how good she is at working with performers of different abilities and talents. The colourfully-clad dancers, used largely in high-energy crowd scenes, were full of energy, although the sheer numbers meant that some of the detail got lost.
A glittering production of this thought-provoking drama with many moments of comedy and a heart full of pathos. Go see.
Woyzeck runs at the Birmingham Rep until 23 June. For tickets phone the Box Office on 0121 236 4455 or book online at birmingham-rep.co.uk.