Anthony Hunt, Yure Covich, Rory Nagle-Runciman, Megan O’Connell, Rebecca Johnston. Photography: Patrick Boland.

POSTED: 18 JULY 2010

Woyzeck, by Georg Büchner

B Sharp & Arts Radar | Belvoir Street Theatre, Surry Hills, Sydney | Until 29 Aug

What would you do to provide for the ones that you love? How far would you be willing to go? And what would you do if your efforts were unrecognised or diminished?

Woyzeck explores the dehumanising torment of a man’s struggle to survive. German playwright Georg Büchner penned this seminal work more than 170 years ago. Dying before its completion, Büchner left the theatre world contemplating how he would have ended this exploration of poverty, degradation and suffering.

This version, directed by Netta Yaschin, takes Büchner’s vision and expands it into a dynamic, visceral and sensual piece of theatre, enhanced by music, movement and texture. Beginning in the foyer, this innovative interpretation really does take the audience on a trip.

The hangdog visage of Michael Pigott is perfectly suited to the role of Woyzeck, a man losing hold of his sanity as he desperately battles to provide for Marie (Zahra Newman) and their child. His meagre soldier’s pay is not enough, so he supplements it by performing menial tasks for his Captain (the brilliantly pompous Anthony Hunt) and allowing himself to be the guinea pig for bizarre medical experiments under the supervision of the Doctor (Rebecca Johnson).

Woyzeck becomes increasingly unhinged by the Doctor’s peculiar “scientific” requirements and his debasement via the Captain. By the time he has cause to doubt Marie’s fidelity, he is no longer capable of rational reaction and tragedy ensues.

Woyzeck’s non-linear structure and multifaceted themes can make it a challenging and sometimes inaccessible experience. Yaschin’s employment of dance and music may not always bring the audience closer to its complex heart, but it does serve to enhance this as a beautiful and poignant interpretation.

Particular highlights include the stunning Drum Major’s parade; Gig Clarke’s gorgeously camp version of I Kissed a Girl; the purity and strength of Zahra Newman’s voice; the strength and beauty of the various dancers’ bodies in motion.

On the downside, you might find it difficult to face eating peas for a while …

Michael Pigott and Anthony Hunt. Photography: Patrick Boland.