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Woyzeck [1] is an unfinished play by German writer Georg Büchner (1813-1837) [2], about a German soldier who murders his mistress. Deals with jealousy, murder and the individual’s struggle against society. A number of incomplete versions written in 1836-7, then later edited by Karl Emil Franzos and published posthumously in 1879. First produced by Max Reinhardt, but only in 1913 in München.

The original text

Translations and adaptations

Translated into Afrikaans in 1981 (under the title Woyzeck) from the original German and based upon the German source material, by Johann van Heerden.

The play became the basis of the first collaboration between William Kentridge and the Handspring Puppet Company (1992) entitled Woyzeck on the Highveld. This major adaptation of Büchner’s unfinished play comments on present day South Africa through a multi-layered structure taking place on three levels, namely the rear-projected animation of filmed charcoal drawings and ink-drawn shadow puppets, and in front of the screen, the roughly carved wooden rod puppets, each manipulated by four puppeteers and an actor. The distance between the inner world as projected on the screen and the action on stage forms the thin line between Woyzeck’s twisted dream and reality. It opened at the Grahamstown Festival in 1992, with Adrian Kohler, Basil Jones, Louis Seboko, Busie Zokufa and Tale Motsepe as puppeteers, played at the Market Theatre and then toured the world. The production was presented during the Israel Festival, Jerusalem at the Rebecca Crown Auditorium, May 31 - June 2 1996. Later the puppets were sold to the Munich City Museum’s puppet collection. In 2008, they were loaned for a revival for the UNIMA Festival in Perth, Australia, with Mncedisi Shabangu taking Motsepe’s place. This also played in South Africa at the Baxter Theatre.

Performance history in South Africa

1969. Woyzeck one of the first plays produced by the Serpent Players, was presented by the Port Elizabeth School Feeding Fund and directed by Athol Fugard with original music composed and arranged by Mike Ngxcolo. It was staged at the Crispin Hall, Port Elizabeth, from November 25 - 29, 1969. Starring Welcome Duru (Woyseck), Mabel Magada (Marie), Mike Ngxcolo (Boss), Simon Hanabe (Doctor), Norman Ntshinga (Boss-Boy), Joe Daku (Andres) and Humphrey Njikelana (Barker, the Fool and the Pawnbroker). Also starring Constance Duru, Daphne Majodina, Patty-Rose Lungu, Sylvia Maphela, Zacharias Skweyiya, Shark Mguqulwa, George Mnci, Lennox Mzinyati, Joseph Mtoba and Sylvia Mapela. The musicians were: Derrick Xujwa (Bass), James Louw (Trumpet), Richard Hatana (Drums). By: FUGARD, Athol. 3.12.1981. (AN: MANU-16648) Add to folder.

1970s: The play became a popular training piece for drama students in the 1970s.

1973: Staged in English by PACT in the Arena, adapted and directed by Barney Simon, with Marius Weyers (Woyzeck), Aletta Bezuidenhout/Jacqui Singer/Sue Kiel (Marie), Lindsay Reardon/Ian Walters (The Captain), Janice Honeyman/Maralin Vanrenen (Margaret), Danny Keogh (Drum Major), Joey Wishnia/Lindsay Reardon (Barker), Joey Wishnia/Denis Bettesworth (Doctor), Vanessa Cooke (Karl/Donkey), Mike Irwin (Andres) and Ian Walters (Preacher). Designed by Lara Geffen.

1981: The Van Heerden Afrikaans translation was staged by the University Theatre of Stellenbosch in the H.B. Thom Theatre in September 1981, directed by Johann van Heerden (assisted by Sharon Theron), with Lochner de Kock (Woyzeck), Hannes Baard (Onderoffisier), Neels Engelbrecht (Dokter), Wilna Engelbrecht (Ou Vrou & Ouma), Peter Holden (Andres), Linda Jacobs (Margret), Ronél Kriel (various), Adèle Marais (various), Theresa Marais (Käthe), Albert Maritz (Tamboermajoor), Pamela Moag (various), Elzette Pretorius (various), Johan Rademan (various), Anton Smith (various), Fanie Steenkamp (Karl), Danielle Stevens (Dokter se Vrou), Zoettje Strachan (various), Hélène Truter (Marie), June van Merch (various) and Emile van Wyk (various). Décor and lighting by Emile Aucamp, costumes by Elaine Aucamp and music by Roelof Temmingh.

2010: Directed by Lara Foot, assisted by Mncedisi Shabangu at the Baxter Theatre, September, with Zoleka Helesi, Mdu Kweyama, Bongile Mantsai, Thami Mbongo, Apollo Ntshoko, Chuma Sopotela, Rob van Vuuren and John Ndouma.


Wikipedia [3]

Port Elizabeth School Feeding Fund theatre programme, 1969.

PACT theatre programme, 1973.

UTS theatre programme, September 1981.

The Handspring Puppet Company website[4]

Petru & Carel Trichardt theatre programme collection.

Curriculum Vitae of Johann van Heerden (2011).

Baxter theatre programme, 2008.

Cape Times, 1 September 2010.

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