dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Huge cast takes on German classic
Birmingham Repertory Theatre's new production of Woyzeck is nothing if not ambitious – as it features a community cast of around 100 people.
A joint production between The Rep and Birmingham International Dance Festival, the show brings together the skills of two of the city's most prominent creators – director Roxana Silbert, who is artistic director at The Rep, and choreographer Rosie Kay, artistic director of Rosie Kay Dance Company.
A 19th century German play about a young soldier down on his luck may not seem the obvious choice for a large-scale community theatre and dance production – but Roxana knew immediately that Georg Büchner's Woyzeck would be the perfect play.
Roxana says: "Woyzeck is a play I've loved a very long time. It was written in the 1830s but I felt it was very relevant because it's about a young man whose mental health is precarious. I felt there was something really interesting in the way this play explores what is it that makes someone who is a good person do a bad thing. We have a new adaptation by Leo Butler which sets it absolutely in the here and now. It's very faithful to the original but it's set right here, right now."
Roxana was keen to work with Rosie, who recently choreographed the widely-acclaimed community dance for the Commonwealth Games handover between the Gold Coast of Australia and Birmingham.
Working with a cast of more than 100 has its challenges, Rosie says. "It's been a learning process for both of us. We are both super-prepared control freaks who have had to hand over control to the cast. You set them up with skills and a task and they bring you back something you weren't expecting and then you shape it and make it work. And it might be something that neither of us expected but it works."
The team behind Woyzeck were searching for one essential ingredient from their participants – an eagerness to be involved. Cast members have come from all walks of life and are aged from teenagers to over seventy. Over the months of rehearsals the team have seen the performers shape the final production.
And the community cast have an appetite for learning. "At the beginning we said everyone could come in, everyone we auditioned, because we thought there would be a large drop-out because of that level of commitment - but pretty much everyone has stayed," says Roxana."They work so hard and that's very energising for us."
The result has, both directors believe, created something very special in Woyzeck, Roxana adds: "This production is quite unique – I don't think anyone will have seen anything quite like it before."
Woyzeck plays The Rep between June 15-23, for tickets see here or call 0121 236 4455.