One Artistic Director. One Associate Director. Two professional actors. 100 members of the public. The Rep’s production of Woyzeck is one helluva undertaking. What could possibly go wrong? We had a right good conflab with Roxana Silbert at The Rep ahead of the pioneering show about the story, the theatre and what it's like to produce a play with 100 non-professional volunteers from the community.
"It’s about young people, the pressures they face, and how that impacts their mental health. It was originally written in 1830, so we’ve had it brought to the present day by playwright Leo Butler. At the heart of the story is a young couple with a baby. They’re looking at how they’re going to survive financially after a war. Woyzeck does all sorts of things to make money, but all his girlfriend really needs is for him to be a partner. In the version that Leo's created, there’s a lot about our relationships with digital media and the stress that puts on young people, so in that way the story is relevant universally.
"It may not sound like it, but there’s a lot of humour in the play. Like real life, in dire situations people survive them with a good sense of humour"
"It’s enormous fun. 100 people take a lot of energy, but the community cast are incredibly inspiring. The most brilliant thing is the commitment and enthusiasm of the people involved, who turn up on a beautiful sunny day – I mean we rehearsed on the day of the royal wedding, and there they all were, when they could have been drinking Pimms, to make this piece of theatre. None of us really know what the end result will be, so we’re all learning about it together.
"It really has been a group effort. We start at the beginning of a scene and it takes a few hours to make one or two minutes of material so they have to be incredibly patient."
"The Rep has always had a huge reach to young people. But it hasn’t always had the reach for adults that want to get involved in acting as a hobby, rather than a profession. It’s an emotional thing to see how people grow in confidence and become friends. You’ve got the most unlikely group of people all in a room together getting on amazingly well. The story isn’t specifically about Birmingham, but it’s the same demographic as Birmingham. Young and old, every kind of background, being able to make something together.
"There is a risk involved [in working with so many people]. But it’s also really exciting. It’s one of the things I love about the Rep. It has a pioneering spirit and it feels right that we should be making something like this here."
"We have a unique space at The Rep, when compared to other theatres across the UK. I’m more and more excited about how we can find ways to give people brilliant theatrical experiences within it. I just love the work. The Rep offers me the opportunity of directing all kinds of different shows. The next one I’m doing is written by Ian Rankin, it’s a film noir thriller. So it’s completely different to Woyzeck and that’s an incredibly exciting challenge."
Woyzeck runs 15-23 June at The Rep. Tickets.