Secret Theatre: Show 1 at the Lyric Hammersmith
Show 1 is part of the Secret Theatre season being held at The Lyric, Hammersmith with Sean Holmes at the helm of the project that distracts from and uses areas of the building in an innovative way while a major refurbishment takes place. The concept is that you buy a ticket not knowing what, who or where you will watch until after the show has finished.
If you don’t want to know what the secret of Show 1 is, read no further.
David Harrower’s version of the famously unfinished German play Woyzeck, by George Buchner, is presented to us on the main stage. This is the story of the bizarre, vague adventure of Franz Woyzeck (Billy Seymour), a lowly soldier who undertakes medical experiments for extra cash to support his partner Marie (Katherine Pierce) and their unblessed child. His mental health breaks down due to a diet of just peas which he eats as part of an experiment, and the rest of the cast become a crazed figment of his imagination. Marie tires of her partner and finds a renewed passion with a drum major (Charlotte Josephine), causing a jealous Woyzeck to attack and kill her. In this version, Woyzeck is seen simply returning to his examination room and continuing with routine, seemingly unfazed.
Occasional Brechtian addresses to the audience, direct from Woyzeck, attempt to include a perplexed audience who are left feeling as though they’ve invaded and watched a rather emotional rehearsal. Amateur moments (the ensemble eating from bowls and clambering over each other) are saved by the commitment of the cast and their individually strong intentions. However, the production simply doesn’t advance far enough into the audience’s minds, and is very much a presentation of opinion rather than of mutual involvement.
Sean Holmes’ direction of older texts is typically experimental and abstract. Previous productions of Desire Under the Elms (at the Lyric) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (for Filter Theatre) have astounded audiences and critics alike, but Show 1 is indulgent, unjustified and disregards its audience. Seymour’s childlike voice is endearing in the role of Woyzeck, but the concept of the piece swallows the individual performers’ charms. It comments on so many social arguments that its purpose is fogged and randomised. Secret Theatre’s manifesto states: “We hope confusion can be revealing” – in Show 1, it unfortunately is not.
Secret Theatre: Show 1 is at the Lyric Hammersmith until 4th October 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a trailer for Secret Theatre here: