Interviews: robert wallis on woyzeck
Updated: May 6, 2018
We sat down with Robert Wallis, who will be taking on the titular role in our Brighton Fringe play, Woyzeck (7th-13th May) at Sweet Dukebox.
Robert, it's great to have you onboard as Woyzeck - can you tell us a little bit about the play?
The play is a fascinating one, written by a 23 year-old Georg Buchner in the early 19th Century who unfortunately died before he could finish it. It's thanks to Georg's brother, Ludwig that the little information on Woyzeck that we have has survived. It tells the story of a soldier, Woyzeck, who is suffering from mental illness and the play essentially, for me anyway, explores the causes and factors relating to his mental state and the ultimate events that unfold; it is a portrait of the Nature vs Nurture debate, posing questions instead of showing definitive answers.
What attracts you to this piece?
I have always been interested by the themes which Buchner explores in the play; class, love, paranoia and oppression being the main ones. Woyzeck has always been ahead of its' time in the way in which it addresses and presents these issues, and I love the air of mystery surrounding the writing process. The episodic nature of the script and the fact that it was unfinished means that it is open to very heavy interpretation, which I have always loved about it. Also the Tom Waits album 'Blood Money', written for a production of Woyzeck, was a huge influence and led me down a wonderfully dark musical wormhole in my teenage years, so I have the play to thank for that!
Woyzeck is a pretty tormented character - what's it like to go on such an intense emotional journey as the lead role?
Tiring! There are so many factors influencing Woyzeck's state of mind at the point in which we meet him and a whole load of thoughts going through his head at any one time - he can flit between them at the drop of the hat. Keeping that frustration, paranoia and confusion present whilst also exploring his journey and interacting with the world around him is a bit of a juggle. Because our production is very intimate, having the audience very much present will help with the atmosphere, and I am incredibly excited.
Tell us about the process of developing the play for the Brighton Fringe
One thing that was immediately apparent from the outset was how stripped-back this production was going to be. Staged in-the-round with only four actors, no set and minimal props, I knew it was going to be an exciting piece to explore. Chris Gates' adapted script, too, was a refreshing read for someone who has already studied the play as there some really nice touches which I am not going to spoil! The process has been a real collaborative one; the cast are great and we've doing some very open, playful work. Despite the subject matter, it's going to be a lot of fun.
How do you feel about the Brighton Fringe?
I think it's a great platform for a lot of emerging artists. The support from the City, residents included, is always wonderful to witness. Having grown up in Brighton, The Fringe has constantly been a source of inspiration, with new venues popping up each year. There is an infectious buzz which falls upon Brighton throughout the whole of May and it is an absolute pleasure to share in it once again. It is vital.
Woyzeck will be showing at Sweet Dukebox from the 7th-13th May at 6.10pm. Tickets available now: