4 stars ****
Assembly Aurora Nova (Venue 8)
THERE ARE TWO strands to Georg Buchner’s Woyzeck, written just before the playwright’s death at 23, in 1837. On one hand, it is a classic tragedy of love, betrayal and jealousy, short, simple and full of dark inevitability. But on the other, it sets that story in the context of the emerging industrial world that was sweeping humanity into a new age of uncertainty and alienation. Its hero, Franz Woyzeck, is a simple man bullied by his boss, experimented on by a sinister scientist, and finally cuckolded by the flashy sergeant-major whose troops constantly march around the streets of the city, expressing the new power of the state.
And it’s perhaps this second aspect of the story that has formed such a powerful bond between Buchner’s play and the young artists of the Sadari Movement Laboratory of Korea, a country which has just undergone as rapid a period of modernisation and industrialisation as anywhere on the Pacific rim. Director Do-Wan Im’s production, playing at Aurora Nova, is light on dialogue, rich in high-powered movement and fine visual images, and a little less than perfect. It approaches the story with a scene-by-scene, production-number sense of pace that sometimes diminishes the depth of emotion it can achieve; and its ending is both too upbeat and too elaborately showbiz.
But in the detail of the scenes, the sheer freshness and beauty of Do-Wan Im’s visual storytelling – backed by the music of Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla – is often breathtaking. His young twelve-strong company dance and act like demons, and then again like angels; and Jae-Won Kwon as Wojzeck, and the beautiful Eun-Young Joung as his doomed love Marie, turn in an exquisite pair of performances, with Kwon staking a strong claim for recognition as one of the finest performers on the Fringe, this time round.
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