REVIEW: Spring Awakening
A coming-of-age drama which explores innocence and its consequences
Spring Awakening is a musical adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s 1906 play, the tale of a group of teenagers confronting puberty and their newly discovered sexuality within a repressive familial and educational structure which seeks to preserve their innocence. The folk-rock musical score offers a modern spin on the late-19th-century play, with a balance between dynamic numbers such as “Totally Fucked”, and more intimate ballads, such as “Touch Me”. The musical’s darkest moments are interspersed with moments of comic relief, giving the audience a thought-provoking yet enjoyable experience.
The entire cast must be commended for their faithful and carefully considered representation of their characters. The role of Melchior (Jonathon Iceton) has been perfectly cast, Iceton successfully juxtaposing maturity and arrogant frustration with a more uncertain anxiety in his character's sexual endeavours with Wendla. Moritz (Alex Hancock) is an equally gripping character, his relentless shaking begging the support of the audience who can remember all too well the anxieties of adolescence. Also worthy of mention is Hanschen (Lewis Nicolson), whose scenes often had the audience in fits of laughter.
Wendla's (Lucia Azzi) youthful innocence is portrayed perfectly by Azzi's beautiful voice, though it was a shame that she was often drowned out by the music. In fact, all three lead roles (Melchior, Wendla and Moritz) often struggled to make themselves heard over the band or the rest of the ensemble during their solos, although the exceptional quality of the acting certainly made up for this. That said, the Girls (Emily Webster, Jessica Hopkins, Leena Meneeley and Alice Murray) had particularly strong vocals and flawless harmonies, with Hopkins's hypnotic rendition of “The Dark I Know Well” most memorable. This chilling number handling the issue of physical abuse reaches a tense climax when the Father places his hands on the two girls, one of the more disturbing moments of the production.
All the adult parts were played by Issy Snape and Nathan Leach, who portrayed a diverse range of characters well. Snape stood out through her formidable command of multiple roles, ranging from Wendla’s well-meaning but ultimately repressive mother to the more comic role of the teacher. The generational miscommunication and conflict is well supported by the set design, which was simple but effective in staging the figures of authority on a higher level. This successfully marked the tragic mismatch between what is expected from these children and the extent to which they are kept in the dark about matters concerning their sexuality. [SPOILER ALERT] Ultimately, this ends disastrously for Wendla, who ends up pregnant after non-consensual sex, protected in an innocent bubble of sexual ignorance.
The scenes between Wendla and Melchior were some of the most striking of the evening. Stripped back, exposed, and intimate, the audience was gripped by the sexual tension and curiosity, climaxing at the end of the first act. In Wedekind’s original play, there is no doubt that Wendla is raped by Melchior, however this adaptation left the audience somewhat in the dark. The scene was perhaps more romantic and sensual than Wedekind had originally intended it, though it was well-executed.
Overall, the seamless transitions, the talented acting, the beautiful score, and a whirlwind of emotions make for an unmissable show.
Spring Awakening is on in the Robinson Auditorium at 7.45pm until Saturday 24th February.