So, I’m playing the Captain in the shaving scene, which is a fun scene to play. As our opener for our fifteen minute Dramaturgy assessment, it is therefore important to get the characters right and set the tone for Woyzeck’s world. Victor Price tells us in the appendix to his translation of Woyzeck that in what many regard as the final manuscript:
The order of the scenes is puzzling. Woyzeck shaving the Captain, which many editors place at the beginning, comes fourth (2008, p.134.).
This makes characterisation choices significantly varied. Depending on what scenes Buchner had placed before this one, you could play the Captain in many ways because the tone and feel of the piece would have been set already. As we have placed this scene first, however, this will be our ‘tone setter’.
It would be easy to over play the subtle humour in this scene and turn the Captain into a Captain Mainwaring (from BBC Comedy Dad’s Army) stereotype. This would not set the right overall tone for the play. Yes, there are funny moments in the play, but I think that the majority of these moments are based on relief theory. Michael Billig tells us in his book Laughter and Ridicule that;
Freud uses his relief theory to explain this type of laughter. If the theory attributes any motive to the adult audience, it is one of empathy (2005, p.170).
To me, the Captain is a man who is prone to distraction and rambling on about whatever seems to be in his head (It is this that put me in mind of the poem If by Rudyard Kipling, which I have discussed elsewhere on this blog). He is a man of some social standing; the clues are there in the text. For example, where he and Woyzeck discuss self control amongst the classes of their society. Therefore, I’ve given him an accent which I feel would suit him, and may be quite obvious and stereotypical anyway. Due to the distracted and self important nature of the character, I’ve allowed my delivery of lines to drift off, almost as if he’s going into a daydream, particularly when he talks about girls stockings!
Billig, Michael. (2005) Laughter and Ridicule. Towards a Social Critique of Humour. London: Sage.
Buchner, George (2008). Danton’s Death, Leonce and Lena, and Woyzeck. Translated and introduced by Victor Price. Oxford: Oxford University Press.