Georg Büchners Woyzeck, A Glitzy Cartoon Update To An Expressionist Masterpiece
Directors love Woyzeck, Georg Büchners unfinished 1830s expressionist masterpiece, because its both malleable and moody. As the soldier Woyzeck lashes out at his proletarian circumstances, a grotesque parade of society marches around him in oblivion. Since the episodic sceneswhich Büchner never left in definitive sequencecan be arranged at will, directors traditionally vie to stamp their own aesthetics on the homicidal gloom.
Icelandic director Gísli Örn Gardarsson, who has enjoyed recent London successes, starts with ripe ingredients: creepy, suggestive blues ballads commissioned for the show from Australian goth rockers Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Unfortunately, though, Gardarsson buries the musics potentialnot to mention Büchners chilling poetryunder an avalanche of gimmickry. Instead of new insights into this familiar classic, he furnishes relentlessly showy visuals: an industrial set of pipes and pools; men in suits and shades doing goofy dances; actors swinging on trapezes. The company handles their athletic feats obliginglyplunging underwater and singing in mid-aireven if their heavy Nordic accents often flatten the language. Gardarsson may have intended to make Woyzecks breakdown feel contemporary, but the showmanship lacks nuance. Here, the drama comes off as a glitzy cartoon, with only faint hints at Büchners stark vision of life as a free-fall into the abyss.
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