Review: Alcester students show they’re up there with the best
Review by Nick Le Mesurier
Woyzeck By Georg Buchner
Alcester Grammar School
SOME things seem never to change. The plight of the ordinary soldier, among them. Expendable is one word for them. Another might be useful.
Georg Buchner’s play, Woyzeck, written in 1836 and based on a real-life story of an ordinary soldier who suffered from what we now would call PTSD and who subsequently killed his wife in a fit of delirium, has become a classic of Expressionist theatre and has continued to point up this oft-hidden consequence of war. Students at Alcester Grammar School have created a fine ensemble production that is exquisite in its choreography and powerful in its visual and aesthetic appeal.
Franz Woyzeck, admirably played by Artie Dobson, is a common soldier, a decent man with a conscience. He is in love with Marie (Eve Corbishley) and they have a child. But poverty forces them to extreme measures, she to prostitution, he to become a willing victim in a bizarre medical experiment to examine the effects on a man of a diet solely of peas. Marie soon comes to the attention of the Drum Major (Cam Bahlmann), a swaggering bully who humiliates Woyzeck, as do the doctor (Henry Clarke) and the Captain (James Yates) who are supposed to be there to protect him. They all enlist the enthusiasm of the crowd in the visceral pleasure of seeing a good man done down.
Woyzeck requires a bold production to bring out the emotional impact of the story. And it gets it. Were it not for the fact that many of the actors’ voices lacked sufficient projection to make themselves heard clearly, this would have been a five-star review, because there was so much to enjoy.
Paramount among its virtues is the choreography. The large cast work together beautifully as one supple body. Timing and positioning are spot on. There is real pathos in the physical expression of Woyzeck’s torments. Colour, film and sound are all deployed to precise effect. The lead actors take on their roles with confidence and the whole ensemble was fully immersed in their characters. Special mention must be made too, of The Showman (Luke Johnson), a Joel Grey-like figure who conducts the performance and bridges the gap between the reality of the themes and the fantasy we are witnessing on stage.
Woyzeck is a complex and demanding show to perform, and the Alcester Grammar team, under the direction of Alex Swan, showed that a ‘student’ production can be up there with the best.