Woyzeck on the Highveld, Handspring Puppet Company, The Hall For Cornwall, 01st – 2nd November 2011
By Tom Howe
Theatre lovers were treated to a masterpiece this week as The Hall for Cornwall was transformed into 1956 industrial Johannesburg by South African puppeteers Handspring.
The drama troupe have brought their adaptation of Georg Buchners’ Woyzeck to the United Kingdom, and how!
The packed-out crowd witnessed the lead, a migrant worker, commit the most heinous of crimes after experimental treatment from his doctor and the toll of a callous urban landscape.
If you have experienced other Handspring works in the past (most notably multiple award-winning War Horse) you know that their techniques and movements are second to none and this faultless performance was no different.
At first glance, it is distracting to see the cast on stage while manipulating their puppets. However, after the first couple of scenes they fade away as your eyes become more involved with the impressive life-like puppets.
These wooden carved puppets are sometimes operated by two of the cast, an example of the difficult and complex task Handspring took on when deciding they wanted to take Buchners’ unfinished story to the stage.
The director, William Kentridge, brought his own influences with morbidly styled charcoal drawings beautifully animated on a large screen positioned above the performers.
Making use of a limited cast Woyzeck on the Highveld is a haunting piece that sees the audience change their emotions dramatically scene-by-scene due to the fantastic multi-media platforms and the intelligent script.
Once again however, The Hall for Cornwall’s ticket prices create cause for concern. Prices for this show ranged from £18-£25 which is in stark contrast to the £12.50 being asked for at Exeter Northcott.
The recent handling charge introduction as well as the theatre fund payments which come with each ticket sale have caused friction between the theatre and its audience, and will be a talking point for long to come.
The Woyzeck on the Highveld UK tour, which is reaching its twentieth year, travels from here to Exeter before its final stop in Oxford.
For more information see Woyzeck on Tour