‘The Sorrows of Young Werther,’ as it is known in English, made the reputation of Goethe, establishing him as one of the foremost German writers of his age. Time Zone Theatre have adapted and updated this classic for the modern stage.
Werther is now an exchange student who decides to study in London, and whose chance encounter with Charlotte leads him into obsession and ultimately to suicide.
Following Goethe’s thinly disguised partially autobiographical tale at something of a distance, Time Zone attempt to give this piece of German Romanticism an edgy contemporaneity.
They don’t altogether succeed in this, although the playing of both principal and other characters does reflect something of Werther’s self-obsessiveness. The problem with this play is harder to pin down than it might seem from the above description, but it’s possibly best expressed as a failure to find a theatrical language that fits both the Romanticism of the original and the contemporaneous setting of this adaptation.
Which is something of a pity, as Jolyon Westhorpe, Katharina Sellner and their fellow cast members work the text about as hard as is possible, although their tremendous efforts fail to breathe a great deal of life into it.
The essential problem, to be slightly repetitious, lies not so much in the adaptation, which certainly tries to put some modern life into a text dependent for much of its theme and effect on the manners and mores of a previous century, as in Goethe’s work itself, which cannot readily be removed from its existing time frame and placed in another.
The combined efforts of the cast, however, do nudge this production into the ‘three stars’ category.
Show Times: August 5, 7, 9, 11, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25 at 2:00pm
Ticket Prices: £8.00/£6.00