For an incomplete play, Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck has nevertheless managed to secure enduring interest. The Nottingham New Theatre now presents its own innovative take on the substance of the work in Daniel McVey’s Franz and Marie:Woyzeck Retold.
A fascinating take on a well-known work
Following the war Franz has returned home to be with his devoted wife, but he is a changed man suffering from what is now recognised as PTSD. Relationships suffer and images from the past haunt him. His breakdown takes several forms and these are vehemently illustrated in some intense outbursts from Arthur McKechnie. Meanwhile, Boo Jackson as Marie reveals the distress and difficulties of dealing with a man she barely recognises as her husband. A stick puppet baby and white bottles add to the imagery that accentuates their having different perceptions of reality.
These events are set in an ambiguous time and space which turns them into an exploration that has universal application. The references to damage done by an IED move it across the centuries and the interjections that separate scenes heighten this. Helen Brown in military uniform appears dead pan in a repeated refrain that each time names a victim of a specific conflict. It’s a reminder that every death in war has a name and is a tragedy and that every time leaders have said ‘never again’ another war has followed. The intensity of all of this is broken up with musical dance sequences in context led by Caitie Pardoe and Sam Morris but engaging all the cast.
The production is a bold attempt to make something more out of the original by using it as a stimulus for new writing. There is more to be done in achieving a smoother flow of scenes and possibly a less interrupted storyline, but for aficionados of Büchner’s work this will prove to be a fascinating take on a well-known work.