Tag: Nottingham

Landscape of dreams and madness in Woyzeck at Nottingham Playhouse

Before the curtain had risen at last night’s performance of Georg Buchner’s unfinished work Woyzeck at Nottingham Playhouse, we were greeted by a long-haired, demonic-looking narrator, resembling a circus entertainer who set the tone for what was to come.

Performed by members of the Deutches Theater Berlin and directed by Jorinde Drose, it is a tale of poverty, the class system, adultery, jealousy and murder played out in a surreal, almost post-apocalyptic landscape. The play has a strange, dream-like atmosphere which makes it difficult to set it in any particular time or place. There are references to Russian Cossacks and Groschen (pennies), suggesting the action may be taking place in the 19th Century somewhere in central or eastern Europe – but the characters who inhabit this world, such as the Doctor and the Army Captain, are both abstract and absurd.

And yet this is a touchingly human play. It tells the tale of a poor soldier, Woyzeck who has to support his wife Marie and their child so he works for the Army Captain and lends his body to medical science to make enough money. But when Marie betrays him by having an affair with the dashing Drum Major, he descends into madness and finally murders her for what she has done.

The fact too that this play is performed in German – with its more concrete words – emphasises the physicality of relationships and the ways in which mental turmoil can be played out by real actions such as drunkenness and murder. In one memorable scene, the Drum Major – played by the comical and wildly brilliant Christoph Franken – drinks copious amounts of schnapps, pours it straight into a heartbroken Woyzeck’s mouth and throws it across the stage, giving the impression of each of the characters’ anguish spilling out uncontrollably.

The world of bar room brawls and lost love, is perfectly evoked by the songs of Tom Waits which sound track the play. Performed by the fantastic band, some of the pieces of music hang heavy with a sense of longing, while the experimental doodling jazz of others capture the characters’ unravelling mental states.

The play, with its echoes of Hamlet, Arthur Schnitzler’s Lieutnant Gustl and Werner Herzog’s 1979 film version of Woyzeck where the wild-eyed Klaus Klinski plays the part of lead character, is one of the best productions I have seen for a long time. It is what theatre should be – experimental, passionate and above all, not stuffy. Go and see it if you can.

Woyzeck was performed as part of the first ever NEAT11 (Nottingham European Arts Festival).

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The Trial: Another winner at The Lace Market Theatre

Last night, I went to see Steven Berkoff’s adaptation of Kafka ‘s modern fable The Trial, performed by six talented actors at The Lace Market Theatre.

The cast, who apart from the lead actor, played multiple roles and used a variety of dramatic techniques, including mime, to bring this classic text to life and show that it is just as relevant today as when it was written in the early 20th Century.

For anyone who has not read the book, The Trial tells the tale of Josef K, a bank clerk who, for some inexplicable reason, is arrested one morning. Josef has to work through the labyrinthine legal world in his attempt to find justice – but his quest is futile as he realises that he does not know why he has been arrested and that seedy corruption exists at all levels.

In keeping with the dark of theme alienation in a modern, bureaucratic world, the characters – who were all grotesque caricatures – toy with Josef’s mind until he crumbles – and one of the most memorable scenes is when all the cast members are  on board a tram chanting ‘Josef K, Josef K’, echoing both the sound of the vehicle and his own paranoid existence.

All the actors put on a tremendous performance – particularly Neville Cann who played the lead role very convincingly – and despite its sinister subject matter, the play was also comic and at times quite racy.

For details on future performances visit www.lacemarkettheatre.co.uk or call (0115) 950 7201.

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The Clock Part II : A 24-hour screening

Following my first viewing of Christian Marclay’s The Clock at Nottingham’s New Art Exchange, I had been looking forward to the full 24-hour screening last Friday which I mentioned in my previous entry.

Visiting an art gallery in the wee small hours added a surreal element to this already unconventional experience. At times, the clock inches slowly along before picking up the pace and moving to a crescendo, with the most dramatic moment coming at midnight (and there are a wealth of film clips depicting the New Year’s Eve countdown). The narrative – which at first seems deconstructed by editing full length films into short clips – is in fact created again under the new umbrella theme of ‘time’. Old and new are fused seamlessly together so that they both exist in a continuing present but one that is creeping forward leaving all the fictional worlds and characters in a shadowy past.

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Christian Marclay’s The Clock: New Art Exchange

This year, Nottingham is playing host to The British Art Show 7 , the five-yearly exposition of the best the British art world has to offer. There are some strong (and not so strong) pieces across the three sites (Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham Castle and the New Art Exchange) which all make for interesting viewing.

But the stand out piece for me is Christian Marclay’s The Clock, a 24-hour-long film meticulously made up of film and television clips each telling the time, either with clocks or people announcing it and it is played out in real time.

Everyone will recognise at least some of the clips – from Laurel and Hardy to Twin Peaks right through to Inspector Morse and the X-Files. It cuts across time zones, genre, high and low art, comedy, drama and much more. But the over-arching theme is the perpetual movement of time. There are even some scenes where there is no clock – just someone looking at a clock – and it reminds us of how time structures and gives meaning to our lives.

Some of the clips also cross reference each other and although there is a sense that time is in perpetual motion, but themes and ideas – not least the over-arching theme of time – constantly recur and refer back to the past.

There will be a 24-hour screening of the film on 10th December from 10am. It finishes at 10am on 11th December and admission is free.

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