Sharp, snappy and episodic. These are the words that come to mind when viewing One Woman Woyzeck. Anatoly Frusin’s adaptation of Buchner’s remarkable text takes an already intermittent and fragmented piece and presents it from the mouth and body of a single captivating female performer.
Re’anne Duffy brings life, heart, despair, and humour to more than half a dozen characters with style, poise, and focus. Her gentle feminine voice trickled into the theatre whistling and singing the show’s theme, and grew to convey an array of emotions, relationships, conversations and confusions as each new character was introduced. With no more than a jump, skip, twist or simplistic costume change Duffy darted through multiple characters’ desires and conflicts, sometimes within seconds when scurrying back and fourth during scenes containing multiple characters.
While Frusin’s direction and Duffy’s performance primarily created captivation, humour, tension, and excellent pace, some conversations or relationships lagged and revealed questions regarding the inclusion of scenes or characters rather than a drop in actor performance or pace. While soldier Woyzeck’s “yes sir,” relationship with the Captain provided an additional representation of his character’s rejection of virtue and his desire to please others, the conversation between the two characters seemed to drag on with an uncomfortable struggle despite the admirable performance from Duffy. The Frusin-Duffy duo’s technique shone throughout the remainder of the performance, however, with particularly engaging moments including a fluid dance of lust, language and the body between Marie and the Drum Major. Other highlights of the duo’s technique included the continuous tension between Woyzeck and Marie, which was exacerbated through cleverly overlapping conversations that seemed to meld the married couple into a single tormented soul.
The most intriguing element of Frusin’s adaptation of the classic text into a one woman show was a subtle suggestion that the telling of the story came from Woyzeck’s single perspective. While characters such as Margaret, the grandmother and the children were told without the presence of Woyzeck per se, Duffy’s fluidity between roles and relationships and her ever-present soldier-like uniform presented a constant reminder that this was Woyzeck’s story, and each secondary relationship all affected his own tormented existence. This storytelling technique accelerated the dizzying effect that Woyzeck’s mentally unstable perspective brought to the entire story. The audience were sucked right into Woyzeck’s complex mind, and with it his anguish, his heartbreak and his overall torturous existence.
With a Captain lecturing him, a doctor experimenting on him, a wife cheating on him and a Drum Major threatening him, Woyzeck’s trust of others, his own thoughts, and his fate are all slowly stripped back like the production’s simplistic staging. With a pram, an assortment of hats, a scarf, an axe and a chair, Woyzeck’s story – and the story of many others in his life – is told with elegancy and charm and purpose. Justin Masrshman’s lighting design gave the Turbine Studio a depth beyond the cement archway that sat at the back of the performance space and a sickly mood that complimented Buchner’s words perfectly. The piece’s soundscape was also a standout enhancement to the show, with the production’s score being whistled, sung, spoken, muttered, and played on various recordings of string instruments.
Frusin’s ability to adapt classic texts into contemporary productions paired beautifully with Duffy’s ability to bring a grounded solidarity to the piece while exploring tormented tangents and comedic cutaways. Woyzeck is filled with laughs, despair, frustration, and enlightenment in a single hour. The two are a standout duo on the Brisbane theatre scene.
– Written by Rhumer Diball February 4th 2016
ONE WOMAN WOYZECK PRESENTED BY MAD WOMAN ON THE SHORE & BRISBANE POWERHOUSE AS A PART OF MELT: A CELEBRATION OF QUEER ARTS AND CULTURE 2016
WED FEB 3 – SAT FEB 6, 2016.
Photo Credit Paige McGovern