“On Crime and Madness: Adultery in Woyzeck”, Theatralia. Revista de Poética del Teatro XVI. 2014, 227-235.
With this article I aim to introduce the topic of adultery in Georg Büchner’s work with a focus on female sexuality, and the relationship between sex, murder and madness. Adultery appears as a final trigger for madness and murder, which is seen as a substitute for the sexual act between the spouses, especially from the husband’s perspective, when the wife’s adulterous relationship with her lover avoids sexual contact with her legitimate husband. Behind that, the social context where the story develops is especially important for the author’s social critique of German politics in the 1830s under the kingship of Prince Metternich.
Punchdrunk Theatre Company has dared to submerge the audience in a Gothic-Surrealist atmosphere like in its very well called Immerse Theatre. Temple Studios, a large and high old building, is the chosen place where the adaptation of the gloomy Büchner’s work, Woyzeck, is taking place in the city of London.
The spectator is introduced to the dark scenario wearing a white mask which allows him to differentiate between the public and the actors. Immediately he finds himself locked in a metallic lift where his journey to an unknown world of sex, violence and despair begins. The spectacle is distributed among different floors and spaces where darkness and bright colours are intertwined to create a high tension experience behind different musical tonalities which make of the journey a very sensorial one. Indeed, the play is based on effects, dancing, body expressions rather than on narration.
Every character has his own story and the spectator is left to follow the destiny whomever he wishes running through corridors, scales, and sandy or wet grounds. The adultery story of Woyzech takes now place in some uncanny Hollywood studios where young actors die mysteriously and relationships are unreliable. Immersed in the life of the characters, the spectator becomes a voyeur completely ignored by the actors; he can touch all kind of structures and decoration, open drawers, read letters, observe closely the reactions of the characters being always unnoticed.
George Büchner (1813-1837) was a Romantic German writer whose short story “Lenz” (1836) is really a beautiful piece of work. Lenz is an extremely sensitive man able to experiment beauty in an unusual degree. Nature, childhood and religion give him a high sense of spiritual communion in the most holistic sense. The detailed descriptions of nature and his feelings towards it remind Wordsworth’s Preface, which in fact is a a very Romantic approach to this realm. The idealisation of nature, childhood and religion remind as well the Enlightened ideas of Rousseau. In fact, these three realities are the only ones able to calm down the suddenly mood changes of Lenz, which go from ecstasy to depression. Their power to redeem Lenz’s tormented soul is linked to their primitive and innocent beauty.
This story, far from being comical, provokes a feeling of compassion towards Lenz’s madness and an empathy with his sensibility.