John Boyega in Woyzeck: Theatre Review

As a fan of Star Wars and therefore John Boyega, I had to go and check out Woyzeck, which is currently showing at London’s Old Vic. He puts in a decent performance and proves he can do stage acting too but I wouldn’t recommend the play itself.

Boyega plays Woyzeck, a young soldier living in Berlin in the 1980s. He has brought his Irish girlfriend and their baby with him but because they aren’t married, they aren’t given accommodation so they live in a small, smelly flat above a halal meat factory. They have barely any money so Woyzeck signs up for a paid clinical trial – with tragic consequences….

I went in knowing nothing about this play, not even the plot, but as soon as he signs up for this trial you can guess what’s going to happen and when a gun appears, you know it even more, so I wasn’t as shocked by the ending as I possibly should have been but I certainly felt a sense of foreboding.

From the outset, you know this isn’t going to be an ‘enjoyable’ play – the set is rather cold and clinical, lots of whites and metal and it eventually degrades over the course of the play, to reflect Woyzeck’s mental state I suppose, and attempts at regular conversation never managed to settle my sense of uneasiness about what was to come. There is some humour and some sex/nudity made me laugh (uncomfortably, I might add) but it never once felt light-hearted – it was a momentary lull in the heavy and serious tone of the play.

Boyega commanded the stage easily and shone in the role but I did feel like he overdid some of the physical moments of Woyzeck’s demise. I can’t put my finger on why but those moments lost the believability factor and perhaps that’s why the ending didn’t bother me so much.

He is backed by an excellent supporting cast though – Sarah Greene as his partner Marie is so lovely and full of warmth, such an opposite to Woyzeck, and Ben Batt and Nancy Carroll add some much-needed humour into the mix, as well as some sex.

I’m not saying I hated it but I’m not saying I liked it much either. I feel quite ambivalent about the whole thing. I wouldn’t recommend it because it is intense and heavy and, yes, some people might like that, but on this occasion, it just didn’t do it for me.

Woyzeck runs until 24th June at The Old Vic 

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