Reviews round-up: Woyzeck starring John Boyega

Star Wars’John Boyega makes his Old Vic debut in Georg Büchner’s elusive masterpiece Woyzeck.

Newly adapted by Jack Thorne in a very Freudian take on the timeless tragedy, the draw card is Boyega in his first leading on-stage role.

Check out the reviews round-up.

Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut

“Culturally savvy ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ scribe Jack Thorne’s new version makes total sense for Boyega…. The character’s puppyish enthusiasm, cornball humour, underlying insecurity and intense love for his partner Marie (an enjoyably fiery Sarah Greene) are a perfect fit for Boyega’s youthful brio. He shows he can act, if that was ever in doubt, but he also brings an ebullience and fun to a play not exactly famous for either of those things.”
“It gets pretty weird, though…. [Thorne] turns the whole thing into a delirious Freudian dream, a parable of toxic masculinity.

“Boyega makes Woyzeck’s descent into madness impressively gruelling stuff. Some of it doesn’t hit the mark at all: a strand about Woyzeck’s uncertainly as to his child’s gender feels vague and thrown away; the bit where he suckles at his prostitute mother’s teat feels ‘a bit much’. There’s nothing wrong with layering on the psychoanalytic symbolism if you have a point to make, but it all feels far too dense and fiddly.”

“It’s still pretty entertaining, mind. Joe Murphy’s production zips along, greatly enhanced by Tom Scutt’s Giger-ish monolith set and Isobel Waller-Bridge’s grandiose synth score, and the cast attack it with tremendous energy. If Boyega took the job to show us there’s more to him than Finn then he’s succeeded, at least until The Last Jedi rolls around.”

Tim Bano, The Stage


“Is something that’s had all of its parts removed and replaced still the same object? It’s a question begged by Jack Thorne’s adaptation of Georg Buchner’s [Woyzeck].

“Well, yes and no. The essential structure is there and some scenes remain intact, but this is essentially a completely new play, and a ferocious one too, that grows exponentially in power as it progresses.”

“Newly-minted Hollywood A-lister John Boyega, the star attraction as Woyzeck, starts slowly and with muted range. He tumbles through his lines on one note, and it isn’t clear if the ennui he emits is intentional or not. There are whispers of a latent ferocity and something mighty in his gestures, like a bull trying hard not to destroy the china shop.”

“But, as the experimental drugs he’s taking to raise a bit of cash start to take hold and Woyzeck deteriorates, that ferocity explodes and Boyega comes into his own. He thrashes and thunders around the stage in a state of insanity, making Sarah Greene’s Marie look like a rag doll in his violent hands.”

Ann Treneman, The Times

“It’s a searing experience, watching a man go mad, especially if that man is being played by John Boyega, of Star Wars fame, who turns in a very fine and distressingly good performance here in the title role.”

“This will be a Marmite production and, for me, the second half was like being trapped inside my nightmare of nightmares. Nothing made sense, everyone was crazy, their insides being turned out (sometimes literally). It is not easy to watch and some people will find it perturbing.”
“Murphy sets a good pace, at times coarse and funny, other times raw with fury. There is no escaping the relentlessness here. This is not date-night material. If you go, be prepared.”

Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard

“If anyone can sprinkle some magic on Georg Büchner’s elusive masterpiece, left as a series of fragments upon the author’s untimely death in 1837 at the age of 23, it’s Jack Thorne.”

“Thorne’s version is earthy, robust and admirably clear, a quality that is by no means a given when it comes to this play. The new setting works very well: it’s the early 1980s in Cold War Berlin and Woyzeck is a British squaddie, desperately short on money and with a new baby to feed as well.”

“Joe Murphy’s production sustains an atmosphere of mounting paranoia but, as almost always happens with this drama, the scenes of mental disintegration feel over-extended and play to diminishing effect.”

“This isn’t an easy watch, but it certainly rewards audience effort.”

Michael Billington, The Guardian

“This production has a lot going for it: the title role is played by John Boyega; the script is by Jack Thorne; the ultimate source is also a seminal masterpiece by Georg Büchner. Yet, for all the skill on display, I felt that one of the classics of modern drama had not just been radically revised, but overlaid with excessive invention.”

“Whereas Georg Büchner’s original masterpiece allows audience to fill in the blanks, Jack Thorne’s updated version piles the pressure on the title character”

“Joe Murphy’s production, while cleverly executed, compounds this by giving us the full expressionist works. Tom Scutt’s design consists of sliding panels that have the claustrophobic feel of a padded cell. We get thunderous music from Isobel Waller-Bridge, an explosive sound-score from Gareth Fry and dream-sequences, representing Woyzeck’s Oedipal fantasies, that remind me of another work Thorne adapted for the stage, Let the Right One In. Boyega, however, is compelling to watch. He starts on a low key, suggesting a Woyzeck who combines physical power with emotional vulnerability.”

Dominic Cavendish, Daily Telegraph


“The eventual descent into Othello-like ire, after the interval, is nicely delineated with a lurching Boyega gobbling pills, guzzling washing-powder (don’t ask), whacking himself in the face and pummelling his perceived love-rival. What occurs in between, though, has a padded, patched-together quality – much like the grey, entrail-seeping chunks of wall that are forever being lowered and raised in Joe Murphy’s moodily lit production.”

“I enjoyed Nancy Caroll as a predatory, horsey officer’s wife and Steffan Rhodri as her thoroughbred (thoroughly barking) hubby. The star attraction himself – a delight at times but could do with a little more light in his sabre. ”

Click here to book tickets

Woyzeck runs until 24 June 2017 at the Old Vic Theatre.


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