Spring Comes Early at the Exeter Phoenix

Rebekah Heaney reviews Shotgun Theatre’s ‘Spring Awakening’ for the Tab

Shotgun Shotgun Theatre Spring Awakening the tab the tab exeter

If you’ve managed to get hold of a ticket to Shotgun’s Spring Awakening, consider yourself pretty lucky: with every night sold out, the show promised to be both intriguing and ambitious. Charting the adolescent frustrations of a small village in Germany, the characters rail against ‘the system’ of a conservative nightmare.

Genevieve Skehan (Director) says she wasn’t looking for the best singers or dancers, but the best storytellers. Hannah Bloom (Wendla) and Jonathan Leigh (Melchior), move us confidently through the show, although their chemistry only really begins to emerge when given the opportunity to tell the story in duets like ‘The Word of Your Body’.

The cast and crew of before the show

Inevitably, with the age of the characters, there’s a hell of a lot of sex – but the yearning of the suppressed Bavarian youth is dealt with both hilariously Will Rushworth’s onstage (and simulated) masturbation and more tenderly in numbers such as ‘Touch Me’.

The most challenging part – the onstage sex – is played down on the awkward scale by interesting use of ensemble accompaniment from offstage. Kudos to anyone who can get their kit off in front of an audience of paying customers and Bloom and Leigh handle it (and other things) confidently.

Hard at work rehearsing one of the school scenes

The somewhat cramped stage (albeit made so by an excellent orchestra) is nonetheless dominated by imaginative use of movement, such as in ‘The Bitch of Living’ where classroom desks and books are put to good use.

Unfortunately, there were the obligatory opening night technical hitches, with some mics drowning out others or failing to come on. Still, this didn’t stop them delivering ‘Totally Fucked’ – hands down one of the best parts of the night.

The choreography in the show was outstanding

Far from being fucked, the cast rallied in impressive energy for the extremely cathartic mocking of the adult characters, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who went home and listened to the song again…and again.

Similarly Gruffydd Evans’s Moritz – despite his song ‘Don’t Do Sadness’ claiming otherwise – shone best in his character’s final moments. Together with the other standout number of the night, ‘Those You’ve Known’, this song claimed many of the dry eyes in the audience, as audible sniffing began to emerge from the seats of my neighbours.

A great success for ‘Shotgun Theatre’

Certainly, you can really tell how much thought, time and effort went into the show and the cast where clearly enjoying it as much as the rest of us. Overall, it was a great show, with strong performances from all its cast. Bravo, Shotgun and ‘Spring Awakening,’ bravo.

P.S. If you missed out on seeing the performances, check out our interview with the cast and crew behind the show here.