WORTH A LOOK?: ***
WHERE: Old Vic
WHEN: 15/5, opens 23/5, runs to 24/6
We’re at the first preview for John Boyega’s starring role in Woyzeck and it receives a rapturous response.
- Read on for reasons including which celebrities were in this 1st preview audience
Several rows behind us is Poldark star Aidan Turner who appears enthusiastic also about what he has just seen.
Woyzeck was written by Georg Buchner and unfinished at the time of his death from typhus in February 1837 at the age of just 23.
It is relocated to Berlin, Germany, in 1981 by author-of-the-moment Jack Thorne, whose Harry Potter and The Cursed Child was an Olivier Award-winning juggernaut last month.
Star Wars: Force Awakens hero Boyega is the titular solider Woyzeck, who lives with his girlfriend and baby above an abattoir and is desperate for money to move.
We saw Thorne’s musical Junkyard at the Rose Theatre, Kingston, recently and he’s clearly no fan of the 80s. As a setting it amplifies our protagonist’s helplessness as all around him turn away from him when he needs them most.
Woyzeck takes part in a chemical trial for cash and finds his mental health is affected and the demons from his past come back to haunt him.
The supporting cast is strong with Nancy Carroll in the dual role of mother and unfaithful wife of an Army officer terrifyingly good; Ben Batt bares all as Woyzeck’s soldier buddy and Sarah Greene (pictured above with Boyega) brings some humanity and wit to the mother of Woyzeck’s child.
Director Joe Murphy gives us an imaginative set of abattoir chains and walls containing what could be meat, or perhaps something more unsettling, as they slide in and out of view.
Our problem with the piece is that Boyega appears yet to have hit his stride and, to be fair, this was his first preview. He’s at his best when dancing cheekily to defuse the tension but it is when it needs to be ratcheted up that we were looking for more from him.
Star power? Certainly. And with his Oscar-winning co-star Lupita Nyong’o reportedly also in this audience, it wasn’t quite a case of Force Awakens. Perhaps later in the run.