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Woyzeck: review

Sadari Movement Laboratory: Woyzeck
Part of the London Mime Festival
Review by Saharial


I am not an expert on mime or dance in any way, and lack any technical terms of description and I also have no real point of reference or comparison as dance is not my forte. Thanks to Philip though I was given the opportunity to watch the Sadari Movement Laboratory’s interpretation of Woyzeck which plays at the South Bank until Saturday. I had no idea what to expect — all I knew was that it was mime or dance of a German play set to Argentinean tango music. ‘Woyzeck’ by the German playwright Georg Buchner is the story of a soldier that gets driven mad by various events and situations in his life.

The performance was divided into twelve segments of varying lengths, each heralded by surtitles projected onto the back wall. The set was bare and black and the only props used throughout were chairs. Dialogue was a mix of English and Korean and the costumes as black and simple as the set. For artistic merit the performance scores a lot of points, the use of chairs well choreographed and very creative. The end of some segments were marked by the dimming of all light to darkness, so there was a good element of surprise when the lights came up and new scenes and chair formations were presented. One of the most amazing feats is the one used for publicity shots where Woyzeck, played by Jae-won Kwon, balances between two chairs (below).

The lighting of the piece was effective and kept as simple as the set, and the music by Astor Piazzola really added to the performances. However, the switch between any English and Korean dialogue was often quite fast and the poor acoustics in the hall didn’t help when it came to understanding what was being said. The projected surtitles kept me on track though as well as the odd Korean word I already knew. The curtain call was unique and unusual, though the audience didn’t really catch on that it was one and a few performers missed the applause they deserved.

Overall, it was enjoyable, but understanding what was being shown was not simple, and I would recommend reading up about the play and its subject in advance so that a better understanding can be had.

Woyzeck is at the Queen Elizabeth Hall till Saturday 26 January


Sadori Woyzeck

One thought on “Woyzeck: review

  1. Thanks very much for the review Kay. I agree with everything you’ve said. Great lighting, choreography and visual impact, and it all makes a bit more sense now I’ve had a chance to read the synopsis. Something I would add is that in a story which to me is a tragedy there was rather too much comedy – particularly in the scene with the doctor. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. In this case I think I would have preferred more horror and less humour.

    Most of the press photos emphasise the humorous aspects and the cleverness of the staging rather than the grimness of the story, though I managed to crop one of the photos which captures well the starkness of one of the scenes – that’s the one at the top of your post.

    I got the impression that the audience didn’t know how to react to it all: as you mention it wasn’t until all the freeze-frame curtain calls had ended that the applause became genuinely enthusiastic. I’m glad I went though.

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