Written in the early 19th century, Woyzeck came back to life in the 1960s, though more in the avant-garde sphere than in general productions.
Loosely based on the story of Johan Christian Woyzeck, the script by Buchner was unfinished when he died of typhus aged only 23.
The fragments of the play were pieced together by his brother and subsequently completed by various authors.
This version includes three black-clad, bowler-hatted Showmen acting as prologue and often part of the play, also adding a musical element.
As they tell us at the beginning we’ll see, “Madness, passion, jealousy, violence and death”. Plus a certain amount of audience participation.
Woyzeck is a lonely soldier stationed in Germany who agrees to take part in medical experiments, mainly eating nothing but peas.
We are witnesses to his gradual descent into madness. Not a very long trip for Woyzeck as Marie, mother of his child, remarks, “Thinking will wind his mind up like a watch spring. It’ll break one of these days.”
The cast, Michael Shah in the lead role, plus Natalie Ling, Neil Bonnett, Kiera-Marie Somers and Tim James are uniformly excellent, taking several different roles each.
It’s certainly like no other play I’ve seen, so if you’re up for something completely different (or doing A levels this year as it’s on the curriculum) then The Rondo is the place to be.
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Reviewer: Philip Horton
Woyzeck, by George Buchner and presented by the Playing Up Theatre Company, is showing at the Rondo Theatre in Bath until Saturday 15th February.