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No comfortable entertainment: Woyzeck Interrupted

Our stage editor finds this adaptation of Georg Büchner’s play a worthy but problematic exploration of domestic violence.

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Stunning projections and effective staging in Woyzeck Interrupted at Deutsches Theater. Photo: Arno Declair

Now on stage after an online premiere back in December, this adaptation of Georg Büchner’s play Woyzeck is a worthy but problematic exploration of domestic violence. Büchner’s original was based on the true story of a soldier who murdered his living partner out of jealousy in 1821. Two hundred years later, in the intimate space of the Kammerspiele, we’re reminded repeatedly of incidences of domestic violence in Germany, where women are murdered by male partners or ex-partners on average once every three days.

The title’s ‘interruption’ is proposed variously – cut short are Woyzeck rehearsals, everyday lives, a romance, a pregnancy, the pair’s separation (by lockdown, when real-life domestic violence skyrocketed) and possibly also a life.

Playwright Mahin Sadri examines structural issues rather than the individual case: for example, a lack of female financial independence. Although in examining patterns, personal elements are lost that could have made the claustrophobic scenario of this pair trapped together in a small apartment a bit more believable. We don’t get close to who Marie is; as she chats with a friend, it’s hard to believe she really has nowhere else to go.

The piece is saved by stunning projections and effective staging – the oversized faces of the couple are, at least, unnerving close-ups. The rape and puppet show scenes are powerful, understated and disturbing. The script is mostly straight- forward but if you need surtitles (especially for the poetic Büchner quotes), reserve your seat much further back in the theatre for a good eyeline and to avoid a cricked neck.

Woyzeck Interrupted Nov 2, 16, 24, Deutsches Theater, Mitte (in German with English surtitles)