Carry On Captain.

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!


Works cited:

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.

Woyzeck meets Dr Caligari.

The 1920 silent horror movie The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is widely regarded as the film that kick started the whole Horror genre and most certainly the Expressionist movement in German cinema.  It was written by the two young writers Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer between them they came up with a script that was strongly influenced by their own experiences.  This film at the time was unique because most of the films that were being made at the time were mainly based on novels and stage plays rather than a script specifically created for film.  But what has this got to do with our production of Woyzeck I hear you cry.  Are you sitting comfortably?  Good, well I’ll explain….

The groups aim for the final production of Woyzeck is to create something that is un-nerving and quite scary.  The idea is, is that the audience will experience the events of the play from Woyzeck’s point of view.  To achieve this we want Woyzeck to be the only naturalistic character on the stage and the other characters and the world around him gets more mad and distorted as he descends into madness.  To achieve this I have looked at other productions that use slightly odd designs to create a strange and distorted world for the characters to exist in and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is a brilliant example.

 Despite being written a bit over 80 years apart there are some striking similarities between Woyzeck and the good Doctor.  For instance both pieces deal with insanity – Dr Caligari dives into the realms of human insanity whereas Woyzeck is almost railroaded to insanity by those around him.  Woyzeck is subjected to constant abuse and humiliation by his superiors, who seem to enjoy taking advantage of his poor man status which in turn is one of the contributing factors that drive him to madness.  Woyzeck can be seen as being anti-authoritarian in that it makes a very strong case for the idea that the upper classes and those in power drive the poor and less fortunate down a path that is not of their choosing and from which there is no return.  One other but seemingly trivial similarity between Woyzeck and Dr Caligari is the presence of the fairground.  Trivial I know however it does seem to be the start of the problems experienced by the characters.  In Woyzeck it is the place where the Drum Major first notices Marie and so it escalates into something more serious.  Likewise in the world of Dr Caligari the travelling show brings with it something of a killing spree.  The arrival of the fair/ carnival could be symbolic in itself in that a carnival or The Feast of Fools (as it was known as in medieval times) is a time and place where normal rules are suspended and chaos reigns.  So in some respects this could be another way of the rich and powerful degrading the poor and weak because the poor have no morals or decency and at a carnival those two things defiantly went right out the window.  On the other hand of course it gave the rich every excuse to indulge in activities that are not decent or morally sound.

The aspects of the Dr Caligari film that are of specific interest to me as director is mainly the design of the film as a whole from the set to the stagy over the top acting style.  Whilst researching the film I found that the overall design is heavily influenced by the Expressionist movement and used lots of painted backcloths which were dominated by cubes and curves, even items of furniture weren’t safe from expressionist influences as it appeared very elongated to the point of almost being distorted beyond recognition.  Although we don’t plan on having too much set (at the moment) but what we do have I would very much like to have it in a similar style to Dr Caligari.  This along with the sound and lighting effects will have an unnerving and disorientating effect on the audience and help them see the story from Woyzeck’s point of view.  Dr Caligari uses a prologue and epilogue as a framing device for the story “Framing the story with a prologue and an epilogue made it a story told by a mad man.”  (   In this instance we could possibly use this technique to frame our production of Woyzeck.

Over the years Dr Caligari has influenced many film makers “Tim Burton used Cesare as a model for Edward Scissorhands – tall, thin, stark white face, racoon ringed eyes and skin tight black on black outfit” (John Bastian  Tim Burton is not the only person who has used the film as influences for their characters.  In the film Something Wicked This Way Comes it is suggested that Jonathon Pryce used Dr Caligari as a visual for his character Mr Dark.  The appearance of Dr Caligari is memorable to say the least – black and white make up, wild white hair and a very dark wardrobe make him frightening and at the same time quite ridiculous.  Whilst we don’t want Woyzeck to look like Dr Caligari or Cesare we could take some ideas from them in terms of costume for the other characters such as the Doctors.

There are lots of similarities between Woyzeck and Dr Caligari which most probably are accidental but interesting all the same.  There also appears to be lots of things we can use to help give our performance a different feel to what may have already been done before.


What If…

Further to the comments left on my earlier post on the great poem If, I’ve been doing some thinking.

 As our piece is to be performed in a promenade style I think it would be a great idea to have certain words and phrases from the poem stuck up around the building as we perform. If we couple this with the idea of weaving in certain words and lines of the poem into the play text, I think this would work on a level that would affect the audience on a subconscious level – they may not even notice the words on the walls.

 Prime example, at least for Dramaturgy and selfishly for me, would be in the shaving scene where we talk about time being wasted. The Captain could utter ‘Fill the unforgiving minute’.

 Any thoughts?


If… By Rudyard Kipling

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!