Brighter stories

7 April 2020

Director Tom Garrett on Nice Weather's Re:Woyzeck

We’re Nice Weather, we’re from Birmingham, and we made Re:Woyzeck. A lot of people know Woyzeck. It was on the A-Level syllabus, it’s performed everywhere – and it’s pretty infamous as being messy. We tried to refine it into something a bit more palatable.

In writing, we cut a lot of the original. Non-integral characters, the military and all the bits with live animals were stripped away, and we focused on the tiny little kernel of a love story that’s at the core of the play. We then built it back up, layering on live cameras and a blisteringly loud soundtrack and rattling through the thing in 70 minutes to make a finished product we’re super proud of.

Re:Woyzeck isn’t a particularly happy show. Working from such heavy original material, it was never going to be. But there are definite moments of lightness in what amounts to a very real, and at times beautiful, story about love. I’m not saying it strikes this balance between light and shade perfectly, but when making it we landed on something that has blossomed into my core belief when making work: that optimism in storytelling holds huge importance – and that I’m a little bit sick of sad shows.

I think there’s a definite pull towards telling darker stories. And that’s fine! People can be awful, and it’s only natural that that’s translated onto the stage. But I think dark stories greatly outnumber positive ones, and I’m not sure why more of a balance can’t be struck. Thinking about shows I’ve seen, I’m hard-pressed to find much that’s genuinely uplifting that isn’t in the realms of family shows or musicals. And that’s a shame.

Particularly at present, I think there’s a strong temptation to focus on the bad. But shows can do a lot more than reinforce how rubbish everything is – they can warm, or inspire, or just pull out a bit of hope in an otherwise miserable classic.

At the moment, life might be a bit shit for a lot of us. It looks like it might be a bit shit for quite a while longer. But with Re:Woyzeck – and the rest of our stories – we’re going to keep trying to look on the bright side, and we’d love for you to join us.


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Photograph: Rachel Baker