Landmark Productions and the Galway International Arts Festival bring Woyzeck in Winter to the Gaiety Theatre as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. Taking Georg Büchner’s unfinished play Woyzeck (1837) and Franz Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise as source material is certainly no mean feat, but director Conall Morrison rises to the challenge of adaptation. With lyrics by Stephen Clark – after the poetry of Wilhelm Müller – Woyzeck in Winter succeeds as both an astonishing fleet of theatricality, and as a complex plunge into the darkest capabilities of the human psyche.
In a narrative of music and melancholy, we follow the descent of the titular Woyzeck (Patrick O’Kane), as he navigates his relationship with the mother of his child, Marie (Camille O’Sullivan), and the society in which he finds himself, vibrantly brought to life through Woyzeck’s supporting cast. With intention and intensity, O’Kane presents a multi-faceted study of madness, tempered only by O’Sullivan’s Marie, who brings tremendous warmth and presence to the Gaiety stage. In equal measure, tension and music punctuate the story, as the play continuously seeks to expose exactly what lies beneath the surface of Woyzeck’s tortured soul. Conor Linehan, the musical director and pianist, joins the cast on stage, and it is in his arrangement that the heart of Woyzeck in Winter lies. Permeating the text, and complementing the cast’s musicality, Linehan brings tempo and tenderness, an antidote to the haunting drama of Büchner’s text.
Morrison’s seamless fusion of music and drama is further facilitated through Woyzeck’s visuals. In his set design, Jamie Vartan constructs a nihilist winter wonderland that yields to the utterly transformative lighting design of Ben Ormerod and Paul Keogan. Liz Roche’s choreography and Joan O’Clery’s costume design enrich the production with a distinct character and charm.
In short, Woyzeck in Winter honours Büchner and Schubert’s material hugely. The play succeeds in constructing a maddening, foreign world, held together through the familiarity of a shared human consciousness, as well as creating a stunningly theatrical survey of paranoia, compassion and pain.
by Sarah McKenna Barry