Red Door Theatre, 95 Atawhai Drive, Nelson
24/03/2023 - 29/03/2023
By Georg Büchner.
Adapted by Ben Hales & Kerry Frampton.
Directed by Anton Bentley
Presented by Piece of Work Productions (Nelson)
“A good murder, a proper murder, a lovely murder, as good as anyone could wish…”
Living in poverty, with his woman and a child to support, lowly soldier Franz Woyzeck agrees to become a medical experiment for the regimental Doctor. But is it his diet of peas that leads him into the forest with a knife, or the rumours of what Marie has been doing with the peacocking drum major?
Splendid Productions’ (UK) creative adaptation of Georg Büchner’s unfinished classic takes Büchner’s script fragments as a starting point (he was still writing the play when he died) to tell the story of Woyzeck as a sequence of scenes that play in a seemingly random order.
A tireless cast of three take on sixteen roles, creating music and sound effects live, while piecing together a fractured story in this fast-paced mix of comedy, tragedy, puppetry, and song.
Venue Red Door Theatre
Dates Fri 24, Sun 26, Wed 29 March
Cast Michaela Sheehan, Keith Marshall and Mike O’Malley
Hilarious and horrific, wicked and witty, brilliant and brutal, energetic and erratic
Review by Judene Edgar 25th Mar 2023
Georg Büchner not only never got to see his final and most famous play brought to the stage, but he never even got to finish writing it. Woyzeck was discovered after the German playwright died and published posthumously in 1879. Found in fragments, the very order of the scenes is both debatable and adaptable, since Büchner was yet to organise his work into acts.
This unique history provides for an even more unique retelling with Woyzeck presented as a sequence of scenes that play in a seemingly random order.
Based on an actual murder case in which a soldier killed his mistress in a jealous frenzy and was subsequently the object of medical controversy regarding his sanity, Woyzeck tells the story of Franz Woyzeck’s descent into murderous madness. Living in poverty with his wife Marie and young son Christian, the lowly soldier agrees to take part in a medical experiment to make some extra money.
Are we to feel sorry for this madman who, at the hands of his captain, suffers humiliation and pain and at the hands of his wife suffers rejection and indifference? Is it his wife’s adultery or his diet of peas that leads him into the forest with a knife?
A dark, romantic tale of madness, jealousy and peas, it delivers up “a good murder, a lovely murder, as good a murder as we’ve had around here for years”.
The tireless cast of three take on sixteen roles, creating music and sound effects live, while piecing together the fractured story in this fast-paced mix of comedy and tragedy.
Mike O’Malley in the eponymous role captures the essence of the increasingly paranoid, psychotic, jealous, madman that Woyzeck becomes, with his obsession with death, peas and his pulse. His demonic facial expressions send shivers down your spine.
Michaela Sheehan and Keith Marshall switch in and out of multiple roles, acting as ringmasters as they introduce each scene, as piece by piece, the full picture is slowly revealed. Michaela seamlessly takes the character of Marie from indifferent shrew to seductress to sorrowful songbird while Keith triumphs as an astronomical horse and the peacocking drum major.
A stellar cast that all deliver outstanding performances with emotion and intensity, all the more incredible knowing that the same three actors delivered powerhouse performances in Metamorphosis just the night before. Rehearsing and acting in two shows playing on alternate nights is no easy feat, but these three highly talented actors have certainly proved themselves.
Hilarious and horrific, wicked and witty, brilliant and brutal, energetic and erratic, Woyzeck uses minimal props, lighting, sound and costume but an abundance of theatrical invention to draw the audience in. The use of percussion instruments provides the sound effects for everything from shaving, to a fist fight to accompaniments for a rousing chorus of “Stab, stab, stab the bitch dead”, that the entire audience joined in on for a jolly singalong. And if they’re anything like me, still have the tune stuck in my head!
Director Anton Bentley (Piece of Work Productions) has set an incredibly high bar for himself with his productions of both Woyzeck and Metamorphosis. Neither of these plays are for the faint of heart yet he’s delivered not one, but two outstanding shows.
Part panto, part musical, part comedy, part circus, part tragedy, this show has everything you’d want … plus peas!
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