In a time of constantly changing policies, bleak uncertainty and social distancing, it brings a little chink of light to see Londoners returning to our theatres. It was heartening to join others to watch this show at Theatro Technis.
So often we hear that we’re ‘living in unprecedented times’, and watching this production certainly reflected this. Directed by Gavin McAlinden and rehearsed via Zoom, this cast have only very recently come together to perform, previously learning their parts in isolation. And despite this unconventional and ‘unprecedented’ manner in which to create a show, I feel they did very well.
The Acting Gymnasium quote in their programme: “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.” This is not a happy-go-lucky play. Reminiscent of the work of Ibsen, Chekov and Wedekind, it has a sense of impending doom running through it. We witness a lesson in human frailty through the demise of a tortured soul. Ironically, although watching it was not exactly cheerful, it still offered a sort of escapism from the bizarre reality of 2020, and I could really empathise with how such plays provided a type of respite from the hardships of life for their 19th century audiences.
The protagonist, Franz Woyzeck, is a young man of 30, and it is soon clear that the strings of his existence are being pulled by everyone but himself. Unable to be the driver of his actions, his life rapidly spins out of control until the inevitable happens. The play bears similarities to Othello in how each protagonist depicts, as Michael Patterson puts it in his biography of the writer, the ‘perennial tragedy of human jealousy’. It highlights the exploitation of a well-meaning soldier by selfish individuals and the consequences of relinquishing your rights to others; refusing to take back ownership until it’s too far down the rabbit hole to come back. Set in Berlin’s Weimar cabaret scene in 1920’s, the songs interspersed throughout the play lent themselves to the melancholic tone of the piece.
Andreas Krügersen, who played Franz Woyzeck, portrayed him as a man of dishevelled mind, generating a feeling of unease which reflected well Woyzeck’s tortuous and confused state. Sonja Kristina as Margaret was instantly relatable and although on stage only briefly brought a natural humour to the role that immediately drew you in.
The acoustics of Theatro Technis are excellent. The singing travelled well and there was no need for musical accompaniment. However, due to the amplifying nature of the auditorium, when characters shouted, their words became lost. So unfortunately quite large chunks of dialogue were missed.
The play itself didn’t always flow easily and could sometimes be confusing to follow. Being an unfinished play that has been adapted and re-written many times, this feature may be an idiosyncrasy of its fragmented past rather than a production choice.
Taking a macrocosmic perspective on the play, one could relate it to our current climate and actually draw a lesson of positivity. The boundaries of our freedoms currently being dictated to us could easily make us feel trapped and hopeless, much like Woyzeck. Yet we can learn from his mistakes and rather than succumb to despair, take heart in the details of life that we can indulge in – such as enjoying theatre once more.
Everyone involved; staff, cast and crew alike, have clearly been working hard to bring this show to life and it is very important to acknowledge their determination and optimism as they contribute towards bringing the arts back to London. Through thick and thin, the show must go on.
This show has completed its current run.
Written by: Georg Büchner
Directed by: Gavin McAlinden
Produced by: The Acting Gymnasium