Jack Thorne’s explosive new Woyzeck brings Büchner’s unfinished working class tragedy to Berlin in 1981, with our hero a British Army private, trying to adjust to life on the German border between capitalism and communism after a hideous stint in Belfast.
Ergen’s production is casually set, minimally propped, modern dress but with suggestions of robe or crown when we need it. The focus is on the text, served with respect and energy by all: especially Hicks, who always speaks Shakespeare as if he had just, in a fit of anger or mischief, had the thought himself.
The year 1632: we are halfway through the epic conflict between Galileo Galilei and the Holy Roman Church, an authority in its day quite as ruthless as Stalin and as doctrinaire as Mao. Our hero has wisely gone quiet for eight years after the initial exuberant stirrings of his realisation, deduced from the moons of Jupiter, that the earth does not actually lie “serene and motionless” at the heart of a universe of crystal spheres with immobile stars.
We watch a series of the paediatrician’s meetings, from chill dawn light to evening candleglow, in a study beautifully evocative of old bourgeois Germany and bathed from time to time in equally evocative Bach and Mozart from the radio Dr Victor impatiently tunes away from broadcasts about Herr Goebbels.