I don’t speak a word of German, so it was helpful that a translation was being projected onto the wall behind the actors. Less helpful was when the translation was slow in matching the dialogue. The play seemed to chart one man’s decline into madness and degradation by a sadistic doctor and a violent major, though apparently the pieces of the play can be arranged to tell a different story and if I’m honest I think I failed to grasp quite a lot of the meaning.
The play itself was well-acted, and I suspect it was my total ignorance of the language which confused me. I suspect, had I been able to follow the German, I would have made sense of the scene where the main character is electrocuted or the finale where – Bear-Grylls-like – he drinks his own piss. Maybe I would have also made sense of the characters’ lengthy speeches, but they seemed to be designed to be deliberately confusing and borderline melodramatic.
The German society isn’t the only foreign language society to put on an annual play; the Italian society held theirs at the BT not too long ago. The societies tend to have a big impact on our culture here. The Germans at Oxford are the second largest foreign contingent, after the Americans, who are just the English but with worse personalities.
Henner Petin, president of the German society, spoke to VERSA about the cultural impact:
“The German society is first and foremost a platform not only for German students at Oxford, but for all who share an interest in the German culture and language. Our language classes, regular socials and speakers contribute to the rich cultural mix at Oxford. Claiming a tradition that goes back to the 1920 and the Oxford Hannover Club , we are proud about our cultural and historical presence at the university.”
If you are English, do not speak any other languages and would like to step outside that bubble of comfort, going to see Woyzeck is a great opportunity to do so.
Woyzeck runs until the 28th of May.
Tags: Oxford — play — review — Woyzeck