(Un)tied

Georg Büchner’s fragmented masterpiece Woyzeck has always attracted experimentation, from one-man shows to Punchdrunk’s latest, The Drowned Man. Recent graduates Company ON continue this experimental tradition with style and originality. Their devised piece (Un)tied resembles an intimate folk tale that focuses on the doomed love story between Woyzeck and his lover Marie.

Whilst a prior reading of Woyzeck is by no means essential to enjoy (Un)tied – the love story is universal enough to resonate regardless – enjoying some of the production’s more obscure moments would benefit from a knowledge of the original.

The action takes place in the round; we hem the performers in with blue wool, the flimsiest of barriers, but one that nevertheless keeps the emotionally unstable Woyzeck (Takunda Kramer) in the centre. He is trapped by his thoughts, dark visions that warp his world and his behaviour, that leave him with only one course of action. Kramer is excellent and portrays Woyzeck’s descent into animal madness strongly and sensitively. He prowls desperately around Marie (the similarly excellent Edina Loskay) with love and anger in a visceral performance that is magical to watch. The story is led by the Narrator (Orsolya Nagy), whose brand of narration often takes the form of beautiful Hungarian folksongs. She encourages us to contribute to the soundscape: we hum, we stamp our feet and we ensure that Woyzeck is truly surrounded by oppressive outside forces. This subtle breed of immersion is the polar opposite of Punchdrunk’s expansive interactivity but is no less effective for it.

The sense of folk story-telling is never far from the surface, whether it be physically represented, as in the Narrator’s fairytale red hood, or in the text itself, as when Loskay recites the Grandmother’s cautionary fable about a boy who escapes to the moon. Original passages are also included but all are written in the spirit of Büchner’s text. If there’s a play that encourages these kind of textual additions it is surely Woyzeck and their inclusion strengthens the production, ensuring (Un)tied stands up as a piece of drama in its own right.

Whilst a prior reading of Woyzeck is by no means essential to enjoy (Un)tied – the love story is universal enough to resonate regardless – enjoying some of the production’s more obscure moments would benefit from a knowledge of the original. You can’t help but think that if the piece was slightly longer it could offer more in the way of detail and explanation. As it is, whilst the 30-minute running time is perfect for creating a sense of brief other-worldliness, there are moments that have been overlooked in Woyzeck and Marie’s relationship that would give a fuller picture if included.

These small oversights aside, Company ON have succeeded in reimagining Büchner’s manic parable in new, interesting ways. (Un)tied, with its woollen perimeter and haunting traditional music, brilliantly captures Woyzeck’s fragility and lingers well after the lights come down.

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Performances

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The Blurb

‘What a world. We’re all going to hell, man and woman’ (Büchner). Company ON’s exciting new devised performance, based on Büchner’s Woyczek, focuses on the tragic love story of the soldier Woyczek and his lover Marie. The performance examines how relationships can turn into tragedy; whether we are ever able to control our instincts; and do those instincts rule our lives and us? Together with the audience, this ballad-like story is brought to life looking at the piece as a folk tale through the atmosphere of a rite spiced with Hungarian folk songs.

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