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Woyzeck

Georg Büchner
Cardboard Citizens
Southwark Playhouse
(2008)

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A rat playing a horse, a teddy bear playing the role of a baby and a man dressed up as circus monkey all come together in Cardboard Citizens' production of Woyzeck.

Written by Georg Büchner in 1837, Woyzeck remained unfinished due to his untimely death at the age of twenty three but has been variously "finished" by a variety of authors and translators.

Franz Woyzeck lends his body to medical experimentation in order to earn extra money to support his girlfriend Marie and their young child. Whether it is as a result of the experiments or social circumstance Woyzeck's mind gradually deteriorates as his feelings of paranoia spiral out of control.

If the aim of this production was to make the audience feel the same sense of confusion as Woyzeck is suffering from then I suppose you could say it was a success.

Seven actors sat in a line across the stage playing a variety of roles. Are these characters real? Are they merely in Woyzeck's mind? Or are we being presented with his distorted versions of these characters? All of which are probably correct assumptions. However it made it virtually impossible to grasp onto any sense of a thread of a plot.

After about thirty minutes of being presented with various displays of paranoia and disillusion, in a variety of forms through various mediums I became numb to Woyzeck's mental deterioration.

The abstract nature of the performance sacrificed the idea of the personal. Yes it was clear that Woyzeck was suffering deeply as Simeon Moore as Woyzeck gradually regressed in his speech patterns and his movements became more and more erratic. However, ultimately I didn't actually care. I felt no sympathy for this character or for those around him and there was no sense of consequence for his actions.

Act 2 took the form of forum theatre, where the audience were encouraged to shout out what they had got from the play. We were then broken into groups of three to work on role play. Character A and B engaged in a conversation whilst character C constantly undermined everything that A was saying. Certainly an interesting way in which to illustrate the frustration of hearing voices and the coping mechanisms that one adapts to deal with this infliction but should one have to engage in a post-show discussion and workshop in order to make sense of what they have just seen?

The forum then allowed members of the audience to interrupt the actors as they re-enacted scenes from the play in order to say what they would have done differently. Again, I can appreciate what Cardboard Citizens are trying to achieve and this style of theatre is ideal for A-Level and drama students or the interactive work they do with homeless people helping them to make sense of their own circumstances in relation to the play. However, I'd personally rather not be taken back to school during a night at the theatre.

Whilst the forum theatre did actually help me to understand the aims of the production which had totally bypassed me in the first act, this should not have been the case. Woyzeck should stand alone as a piece of theatre but sadly in this instance it did not.

Running until 15th March

Reviewer: Rachel Sheridan