When I’m directing a piece I like to have look around at reviews of various productions. There appears to have been rather a lot of productions of Woyzeck done over the years, these have provided me with a few ideas of what ought to be avoided. The following are notes made from reviews of two very different productions of Woyzeck:
Counting Squares production 2008, directed by Joshua Chase Gold. Review by Jason Fitzgerald 6/10/08
This production set Woyzeck as something like an American War Story buit with the play being somewhat anti-hero this concept really doesn’t suit it.
The characters insanity undermined the whole production.
Woyzecks state of mind is perhaps conveniently passed off as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which he suffers as a result of military action. However Buchner’s script doesn’t give any specific symptoms related to PTSD.
The Doctor character was used more as a comic interlude rather than providing ” Critical signposts on the road to Woyzeck’s self destruction” (Fitzgerald, 2008)
Woyzecks visions of the godless world he lives in a partly due to the ill treatment he receives from the upper classes or the Bourgeoisie as they were known as. This theme of everyday man being abused by supeiors is a theme still relevent today and will still probably be relevent for many years to come.
Cindy Pierre also reviewed the same production but wasn’t quite as brutal. She did provide some interesting points that are useful for our groups production and will give some things to consider even if they are only in terms of what to avoid doing!
The production used a chorus to represent Woyzecks maddness but they only really succeeded in distracting from the real issues.
Humour was inserted into what should have been very serious circumstances making it inappropriate.
Scenes where Woyzeck is performing menial tasks lost their ability to get the audience to understand Woyzeck’s plight.
The theme of the poor having no morals got lost amongst all the song and dance numbers.
The murder scene a damp squid due to bad staging.
review from http://www.newtheatrecorps.blogspot.com
Icelandic company Vesturport put a circus act spin on their production which was described by Jason Best as ” hectic, often thrilling, sometimes even dazzling but as a whole curiously unsatisfying” (14/10/05)
In this production Woyzeck is not a soldier but a lowly factory worker who is frquently subjected to abuse and humiliation by his superiors. The Doctor takes a very sinister form and treats him as little more than a lab rat and throughout the course of the play conducts cruel and pointless experiments on him.
The physical feats used in the production though breathtaking were very distracting. In fact the physical aspects shoved Buchner’s original words into the background making the production far more impressive as a visual spectacle than effective as a serious drama.
Jason Best 14/10/05
These reviews have made it clear that there are many things that could potentially make for a production that doesn’t get across the seriousness of what is happening to Woyzeck. It would be very easy to get distracted from the drama aspect by trying to create something spectacular. Yes we want to do something that has the wow factor but we don’t want to over cook it so to speak. But this has provided the group plenty to think about.