Dark & Humorous HAODS Adaptation of Woyzeck is Terrifyingly Brilliant

The works of George Buchner are little known in this country but in Germany, his literary achievements, though few in number, are held in great esteem. It is widely believed that, had it not been for his early death, (he died from typhus at the age of 23) he might have joined such central German literary figures as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller at the summit of their profession.

Georg Büchner died in 1837 before completing Woyzeck, which is now his most famous play. It was found in four bundles of twenty or so scenes, which were not in any particular order, with the fourth, more likely to be the play. This allows Directors, within reason, to be editors and therefore permitted to move, delete, or even add scenes to it. So, Piers Burnell, who directed the play, collaborated with Birte Hayes, a German speaker to produce a new, coherent and powerful interpretation of the piece. It was certainly an expectant audience in the intimate atmosphere of the HAODS Studio, who were plunged into darkness as the characters burst onto the scene with great dramatic purpose.

The play opens with a dear old grandmother, telling bedtime stories to her grandchildren. This sound and looks an idyllic scene … however, the dark, shocking, inappropriate tale told with great glee by Jenny Sakal was enough to give anyone nightmares for the rest of their lives!

Loosely based on the true story of Johann Woyzeck, played with great nervous tension by Alex Staunton, who drew us into his somewhat pathetic life, a Leipzig wigmaker who later became a soldier. In a fit of jealousy, he murdered his lover, Christiane Woost and was later publicly beheaded. For Christiane, read Marie, played by Chrisie Southwick, Woyzeck’s lover and the mother of his child, gave us an outward air of sweet, quiet innocence, but as always it’s the quiet ones one must watch, and she strays into the arms of the Drum Major, one of the roles played by Piers himself, positively oozing testosterone as he stalked the vulnerable Marie and seduced her.  In his other role as the Captain, he pressed his authority on the subservient Woyzeck and was equally as powerful. This markedly different character was the one that destroys Woyzeck with his mockery.

At his medical examination, Woyzeck encounters the most bonkers doctor on the planet in the shape of Zoe Keys, who goes above and beyond her duty as a medical examiner by sniffing his pee to ensure his health… then threatening to perform some immortal experiments on him! She was enough to scare anyone to wet their pants! Zoe also played the Journey Woman, a totally contrasting character who also terrified the audience! Well done Zoe!

We are treated to a trip to the fairground where we meet the Show Woman, played with great power and confidence by Samantha Riley, bringing alive the stage with her larger than life “roll up, roll up!” role. A great interpretation of a flamboyant ringmaster who prepared us to “be amazed!”   Samantha also played the pawn broker, and disembodied voice of Andres, who cut through to  Voyzeck’s mind with great power. At the fayre, we are introduced to the horse and the monkey, played by Vivienne Higton Burnell, and Marta Stoilova, and the pair did an excellent job of interpreting true animal behaviour by the horse having a pee on stage and the monkey collecting it in a bucket!

The entire production, including Lighting and Sound by Hugh Legh, and the superb costumes by Julie Huntington brought the whole production together for a fast-moving intense hour, that never lost the focus of the audience. Directing and being in a play is usually exceedingly difficult, but with the very able assistance of Caroline Seraille, this production was a triumph for Piers, Caroline and HAODS. So much so, that it won four trophies at the Henley Drama Festival in May, including Best Production, Best Dramatic Presentation, and a well-deserved Best Actor Award for Piers himself. Zoe Keys alarmed the Adjudicator, Dr Tristan Marshall, so much, that he felt he had no alternative but to award her the Adjudicators Choice Jean Sutherland Memorial Award for her terrifying interpretation of the Doctor!

If you missed it, or want to see it again you can catch Woyzeck again at the Wallingford Drama Festival on Saturday 14 June https://www.cornexchange.org.uk/whats-on/corn-exchange-drama-festival-4/

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