Tom Wait’s and Kathleen Brennan’s music and lyrics performed by a glorious band and sung by the talented actors of the Thalia Theatre, Hamburg is what I took most away from this exciting Sydney Festival production. Much of the music had a delightful Kurt Weill aesthetic, whilst other songs were just as pleasing but were in more traditional Tom Wait Americana territory.
Georg Buchner’s 1836 play, WOYZECK, has a surprisingly modern resonance with its themes of workplace alienation, despair, jealously and marginalised members of society not functioning in our world of economic rationalism and political expediency.
Franz Woyzeck (Felix Knopp) is a lowly soldier stationed in a provincial German town. Woyzeck earns extra money for his family by performing menial jobs for the Captain (Philipp Hochmair) and agreeing to take part in medical experiments conducted by the Doctor (Tilo Werner).
Woyzeck’s mental health is breaking down and he begins to experience a series of visions. His wife, Marie (Franziska Hartmann), grows tired of Woyzeck and turns her attentions to a handsome drum major (Bernd Grawert). Woyzeck’s mental state continues to deteriorate and is only slightly relieved by the kindness shown by Andres (Jörg Pohl) the town drunkard. Pohl’s performance is brilliant and is reminiscent of a great Shakespearean fool.
This production is mostly in German with an English translation screened above and to the sides of the stage. It is a little distracting trying to follow the esoteric and oblique text and the activity on stage simultaneously. However, the music and stage design compensate for this.
A lot of the action on stage is performed on a massive rope grid in a large frame. The frame can be raised horizontally and vertically and tilted left and right and backwards and forwards. This gives director Jette Steckel a wide scope in which to present the action, either with the actors precariously walking or hopping on the horizontal grid or with the grid raised and the actors climbing the vertical net. It is also raised out of the way to allow the actors to tread the boards. It is an impressively used piece of stage equipment that blends well with Carriageworks impressive industrial architecture.
The fabulous musicians are Gabriel Coburger, Johannes Huth, Uwe Granitza, Stephan Krause, Edouard Tachalow and Laurenz Wannenmacher. Stage design was by Florian Lösche.
Thalia Theatre Hamburg’s production of George Buchner’s WOYCZEK played Bay 17 Carriageworks between the 7th and 12th January.