John Boyega struggles to ignite a spark in Jack Thorne’s Woyzeck – review

The famous Georg Buchner play; left unfinished after his death at only age 23; has been re-written by renowned playwright, Jack Thorne.

It’s 1980s Berlin. The Cold War rages and the world sits at a crossroads between Capitalism and Communism. On the border between East and West, a young soldier, Woyzeck [John Boyega] and the love of his life are desperately trying to build a better future for their child. Woyzeck’s an intensely dark play; placing much of the focus on an unknown “past event” in his life. An event that’s caused serious issues down the line – an event that’s never totally revealed in great detail to the audience.

There are often times here when it’s painfully obvious that the original play was sadly left unfinished – which is somewhat unfortunate. The storyline, occasionally not flowing as smoothly as it could; often confusing more than it explains.

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Sarah Greene as Woyzeck’s committed yet not-to-be wife, Marie, creates an interesting pairing alongside Boyega. Portraying two different characters with fiercely different priorities (or so it would seem) becomes a delight to watch. A fantastic pairing. Praise also to Nancy Carrol [Maggie]. The characterisation of a strong, seen it all before kind of woman, whom is ignorant to the plight and struggles of her subordinates; while also showing an innate interest in them for her own gain is brilliant to see.

While the set itself is brilliant in it’s intricacy; aspects of it are mostly unexplained. For the most part, Tom Scutt’s design coupled with Neil Austin’s lightning creates dazzling effects. Truly highlighting that brilliance can often be achieved with simplicity. That being said, certain scenes while visually stunning, seem to distract from the plot rather than add to it.

Woyzeck is by no means easy to watch. Many somewhat taboo subjects are staged here, often with little to no warning. Woyzeck is as dark as it is elegant. While Jack Thorne has inserted his own take into the famously incomplete and sparse original text; it unfortunately still feels somewhat unfinished – though this doesn’t detract from great cast performances.

Gay Times gives Woyzeck – 3/5

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