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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child dramatist Jack Thorne effectively relocates Georg Buchner’s fragmentary 1937 play (unfinished when he died at the age of 23) to a divided 1980’s Berlin, where British Army squaddie Woyzeck has been deployed after a traumatic event in Belfast.

From a light-hearted, often humorous, beginning, with Woyzeck seemingly happy with his Irish Catholic girlfriend Marie (Sarah Greene) and their baby, the pressure slowly mounts on this illiterate soldier with an already troubled background. The stench of the abattoir below pervades their flat and, desperate to earn more money to take better care of his family, he signs up for dubious clinical trials. You just know things are going to end badly, and Tom Scutt’s bleak set of padded, hanging grey blocks evokes, appropriately, a slaughter house, madness, misery.

Returning to the stage after his Star Wars success, John Boyega’s disintegrating Woyzeck is physically strong but psychologically fragile, convincingly charting an ordinary soldier’s descent into tormented desperation as he swallows those little green pills. In contrast, Bill Batt’s blatantly full frontal jack-the-lad, Private Andrews, has a devil may care, live for the moment attitude, enthusiastically bedding their superior’s voracious wife (Nancy Carroll, doubling as Woyzeck’s mother). And, emphasising the unbridgeable divide between officers and their men, Steffan Rhodri’s whiskery Captain indulges his homoerotic inclinations with a shave and a massage at Woyzeck’s competent hands, but is callously dismissive of his quietly despairing request for financial help.

Old Vic, The Cut, SE1 8NB

Tube: Waterloo

Until 24th June 2017     

Tickets  £12.00- £60.00

oldvictheatre.com


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Theatre Review: Woyzeck
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